German street papers call for hotels to house the homeless for the remainder of COVID-19 pandemic

“Open hotels to the homeless!” goes a petition launched by 13 German street papers demanding that the country’s national, state and city officials use their powers to use empty hotel rooms to provide shelter to people experiencing homelessness for the remainder of the coronavirus pandemic lockdown.

The petition, which has already collected over 2,500 signatures at the time of writing, has the backing of the International Network of Street Papers (INSP) and was started by INSP member publications Asphalt, BISS, bodo, Draussenseiter, fiftyfifty, Hinz&Kunzt, Die Jerusalëmmer, Straßenkreuzer, Trott-war, alongside other Germany-based street papers Donaustrudl, draußen!, KiPPE and Strohhalm.

With the COVID-19 pandemic restricting travel and tourism, hotels and hostels, even outside Germany, are being left empty and unused. In other parts of the world, including the UK, there has been some success in finding suitable sheltered accommodation for those on the streets without a place to call home, allowing them to properly adhere to restrictions and advice meant to stop the spread of the coronavirus.

Photo by Sebastian Sellhorst / bodo

“There is no shortage of rooms: many hotel rooms are currently vacant and homeless people can be accommodated immediately,” says Bastian Pütter, editor-in-chief of Dortmund-based magazine bodo. “In Hamburg, Hanover and London we have already had good experiences with this solution. At the same time, it is the best possible economic development: hotels earn their money [payment from local governments] with real guests instead of relying on emergency aid alone.”

Speaking about the increasingly precarious situation for homeless people in Germany, where other social care facilities such as food distribution centres, day shelters and medical offices for those living in poverty have shut or drastically reduced their services, Volker Macke, editor-in-chief of Asphalt, a signatory of the petition from Hanover, added: “Those who are homeless need more support and protection than ever before, and this is only possible through individual accommodation.”

Photo by Sebastian Sellhorst / bodo

The text of the petition on explains: “In cities big and small, the impoverishment of those who are homeless is more visible than ever before. They live on the street and they die on the street – more than ever in these coronavirus times. We are all told to stay home and avoid contact. What about those who don’t have a home? How are they supposed to protect themselves from the risk of infection if they are dependent only on warm rooms during the day and communal emergency accommodation at night?

“We call on [political officials] to finally house homeless people safely in single rooms this pandemic winter. We cannot allow more people to die on our streets. In addition, there is an urgent need for social work outreach that goes to the people on the street.”

You can sign the petition here.