Why do homeless people die

The Hamburg days wake up freezing cold these weeks, by Hanseatic standards it is a harsh winter. On Tuesday it also rained, the wet cold creeps outside through jackets, blankets and sleeping bags. And of course, it's also a Corona winter, the pandemic is making this drama even worse.

Most hamburgers get out of warm beds anyway, the heaters are on, and many work at home. But in the Hanseatic city, which is all in all very rich, there are around 2000 people who have no warm beds, no heating and no home office either. They live on sidewalks, in pedestrian zones or under overpasses, on cardboard boxes or old mattresses. Many of them struggle with death on these nights.

Last Friday, passers-by discovered a lifeless man on the pavement of the Reeperbahn, which is more empty than ever in the partial lockdown, but still a place with numerous homeless people. A police patrol from the Davidwache came, an ambulance was called and the attempt at resuscitation was unsuccessful. The man was 66 years old, it was said. "The dying on Hamburg's streets continues," wrote the street magazine Hinz & Kunzt. "It's another preventable death that will leave you speechless."

You fall asleep and don't wake up again. On New Year's Eve, the body of a 48-year-old was found on the jetties, on New Year's a dead 59-year-old in the Schanzenpark, on a sleeping mat. The next day the lifeless body of a 65-year-old was lying in the main cemetery in Altona; apparently he had tried to cook himself a meal in a tent there.

Numerous hamburgers had just cleared away their fondue residues and disposed of the empty wine bottles after the turn of the year, which should only be celebrated in small groups and was quieter than usual, but still relatively comfortable for most residents. Then the body of a 45-year-old was recovered in Altona, under the roof of an apartment building and yet fatally unprotected.

Five deaths of hamburgers without accommodation were already reported in 2021. Five dead, died within two weeks in the middle of this second largest German city, in which more than 2000 residents earn more than one million euros a year and of which it was said in 2017 that there were 42,000 millionaires and 50,000 children from families who live from Hartz IV.

Homeless people could be accommodated in empty hotels

Hinz & Kunzt, a voice of the Hamburg homeless for three decades, even reports eight deaths in six weeks. Last week, the magazine and the Diakonie called for a vigil on Jungfernstieg in the middle of the Hanseatic city. "Open the hotels" was a banner with candles in front of it. The hotels are largely empty, since the viruses are no longer allowed to accommodate tourists for the time being.

Corona has exacerbated the situation on the street again, Johan GraƟhof was quoted as saying, social worker at the Diakonie. One needs short-term solutions "because people do not go to the mass accommodation", they are "desperate, tired and weak and look for ways to rest all day long". Stephan Karrenbauer from Hinz & Kunzt worries that more people will die on the streets. "I believe that the people of Hamburg are on our side and also think that the Senate must do more!"

Meanwhile, the citizens met in the town hall across the street. The CDU and the left, who are otherwise worlds apart here, also demand accommodation in hotels. Thanks to donations, some people in need have found a safe place to sleep by spring. A private cold bus is also on the way. But it is not enough, as the dead show.

The red-green Senate refers to free capacities in the urban winter emergency program with three addresses. Caritas, too, warns that people with mental illnesses find it difficult to get involved in hostels with up to six beds in the room, especially during Corona. "The existing help system is not sufficient," says Michael Edele, Caritas country manager. Hamburg needs a strategy "before more people die on our streets."

"Stay at home" - the pandemic motto par excellence - can be read on a wall, "is a privilege !!" It sounds like a mockery to the homeless. It is the privilege of the heated lives of others.