What should I buy before I get homeless


What does homelessness mean?

People who spend the night in public spaces such as parks, gardens, underground stations, basements or construction sites or are temporarily housed under the respective state laws on security and order are referred to as homeless.

What does homelessness mean?

All people are referred to as homeless who do not have a rental contract or their own living space, are homeless, have temporarily stayed with acquaintances, live in institutions of voluntary welfare or in communal institutions.

Homelessness and homelessness are often confused or equated in everyday language usage. Homelessness is the general term, homelessness only describes part of homelessness. All these life situations, which also include living in apartments with serious structural defects or eviction complaints, have in common the existing housing shortage. Therefore, from a technical point of view, housing emergencies are often spoken of. The variety of living situations that is expressed in this way serves to prevent exclusion and exclusion of assistance and is reflected in the differentiated offers of emergency housing assistance (see below).

Living without a home or on the streets increases poverty and social isolation, which makes people depressed and sick. Ending homelessness is made much more difficult if the support system does not offer appropriate support, if those affected are unable to accept the help they are entitled to or if unsuitable help is forced upon them. Homeless people are often ashamed of their situation and try not to be recognized as homeless. Because of this, homelessness is not necessarily noticed in society.

The "typical" homeless person does not exist. The likelihood of becoming homeless, however, increases the more risk factors come together.

What are the reasons for homelessness or homelessness?

The housing shortage and homelessness as serious social problems arise as a result of inadequate housing policy, especially in municipalities that do not have a sufficient number of cheap and accessible apartments for housing emergencies. This is often associated with inadequate social services that do not provide adequate advice and support to people in overwhelming crisis situations. Most of the people affected by homelessness are poor and marginalized.

The causes of homelessness as a social phenomenon are to be distinguished from occasions in which individual people or families find themselves in need of housing. Crises and situations of upheaval are often the trigger for homelessness: These include, in particular, loss of job, separation from a partner, migration, conflictual and abrupt solutions from the parents' home or from youth welfare institutions, mental illnesses, over-indebtedness or release from prison. In the regions where there are specialist offices for securing housing, people are less likely to become homeless because of rent debts. Homelessness resulting from such a biographical crisis situation can in principle affect anyone. However, homelessness lasts longer if it affects people living in poverty without a strong (resource) social environment and if there is a lack of social assistance and, moreover, no affordable housing is available or local authorities are unable to allocate suitable housing.

The cause of homelessness is therefore the combination of inadequate housing policy, poverty, social exclusion and inadequately functioning social services that do not offer sufficient help to people in overwhelming crisis situations.

What problems do the homeless and homeless face?

Central human needs such as sufficient and healthy food, warmth, but also relaxation, exchange and intimacy are difficult to meet without having your own home. Difficult hygienic conditions and difficult access to health care affect life. A life with no prospect of improvement makes it easier to resort to supposed problem solvers such as alcohol or other drugs and makes you more prone to addiction. In addition, homeless people often experience social cold and aversion. There are still many prejudices against them. In addition, bureaucratic hurdles hinder participation in society. Often the following applies: without an apartment no work, without work no apartment!

People who spend the night on the street or in the open air are frequently the target of violent attacks.

During the nights on the street or in many emergency shelters, homeless people have no way of protecting their belongings or valuable objects, such as identity papers, documents, mementos.

Organization and funding

Help in coping with and overcoming homelessness

Help to overcome particular social difficulties is regulated in the Social Security Code XII (SGB XII). It says: "People in whom special living conditions are associated with social difficulties must perform to overcome these difficulties if they are not able to do so on their own." The aim of the aid is also to prevent the situation from getting worse.

§67 - § 69 SGB XII and the implementing regulation for § 69 SGB XII

The services include: personal support, advice, help with the acquisition and maintenance of an apartment, support when entering work or when looking for an apprenticeship position.

What is the right to financial support?

In principle, homeless people have the same benefit entitlements as every other citizen. If they become unemployed, they can receive benefits under Social Code III (unemployment benefit) or basic security benefits for job seekers under Social Code II (Hartz IV). People who are unable to work are entitled to benefits according to Book XII of the Social Code (social assistance).

Background and numbers

How many homeless people there are in Germany can only be estimated. According to an estimate by the Bundesarbeitsgemeinschaft Wohnungslosenhilfe e.V., around 678,000 people in Germany were homeless in the entire year 2018, i.e. they do not have any living space that is secured by a rental contract. Most of them are men, but more and more older people, families and EU citizens do not have a permanent residence.

The federal government has decided to introduce homeless reports and statistics on houseless people. This is also urgently needed in order to obtain a resilient basis for a practical and targeted social policy.

The Diakonie offers around 800 offers for the homeless and people at risk of homelessness throughout Germany. These offers include:

  • Specialist advice centers
  • Day stays with the opportunity to shower, do laundry and distribute food and textiles, for example sleeping bags and clothes
  • outreach help - street social work
  • Specialists for housing security
  • Employment offers
  • Outpatient and inpatient facilities for emergency housing assistance
  • Assisted living
  • Special offers as frost protection in winter, such as cold buses and seasonal emergency shelters

History of Emergency Housing Assistance

in the middle of the 19th century

Several dozen workers' colonies, hostels for homeland and natural refreshment stations for unemployed and homeless migrant workers are being built throughout the German Reich. They follow a paternalistic approach of traditional Christian poor and migrant welfare.


An individual-pathological understanding of mobile poverty and homelessness is gaining ground, which is at least conceptual and which was adopted in 1961 in the new Federal Social Welfare Act.

National Socialism

Homeless people are persecuted as anti-social and exterminated.

1950s / 1960s

The so-called "non-sedentary aid" is characterized by paternalistic and incapacitating aid approaches.


An examination of the stigmatizing and socially discriminatory concept of biologically and genetically justified "non-sedentary" begins. In the GDR, Section 249 of the Criminal Code makes homelessness a criminal offense

1980s / 1990s

A paradigm shift is taking place in helping the homeless. Inpatient assistance is being reduced in favor of outpatient forms of assistance.


Emergency housing assistance is characterized by the guidelines of law enforcement, normalization, partiality, housing brokerage and closeness to the real world.

Evaluation of the Diakonie Deutschland

Individual and protected living space is crucial for satisfying human needs and should therefore be available to everyone. The aim of diaconal help for people in need of housing is to strengthen them. The housing shortage is often only a central issue in public and in the media during the cold season. Diakonie is committed to bringing the issue more into the limelight throughout the year. Emergency housing assistance offers are available in many cities. Nevertheless, there is by no means a comprehensive help network, in particular there is a lack of regular, specialized offers for women and young adults in need of housing, as well as for foreign nationals. Such a help network is necessary in order to achieve a sustainable overcoming of the individual emergency. Especially in winter there are too few places available for emergency overnight stays in metropolitan areas. In addition, the Diakonie advocates not stigmatizing homeless people, but treating them with dignity and humanity.

A special concern of diakonia is to avoid housing shortages through preventive approaches. To this end, it calls for the nationwide expansion of specialist centers for prevention and early advice and help in difficult living situations.

A sufficient stock of affordable housing accessible to poor people in every municipality is the most important prerequisite for successfully combating homelessness and also prevents the risk of becoming homeless. Therefore, favorable framework conditions for a social housing policy are a key factor for a sustainable fight against homelessness. For this reason, the Diakonie calls on the federal, state and local authorities to meet their responsibility for an adequate supply of housing, including through appropriate funding programs. The funds provided by the federal government for publicly subsidized living space must be used in full and appropriately by the federal states and must serve to create living space, especially for people who are disadvantaged in the housing market.

Text: Diakonie / Sarah Spitzer and Rolf Keicher