Street paper hits back as Hamburg leader says homeless create “fear and disgust”

Hamburg street paper Hinz&Kunzt has hit out against the local government official who accused homeless people of creating “a place of fear and disgust” in the city’s Central Station.

Director of the Hamburg-Mitte district Falko Droßmann made the comments as he disclosed renovations that aim to make the station “more attractive”. Whilst announcing plans to install more refuse bins and clear out abandoned bicycles, he referred to drinkers, beggars and the homeless as “people who exhibit disturbing behaviour” and said that he wanted to stop them congregating in the area.

Birgit Müller speaking to Hamburg’s news channel in response to the city’s District Director Faiko Droßmann’s comments. Photo: Benjamin Laufer

“Then where are the homeless supposed to go?” asked Hinz&Kunzt editor-in-chief Birgit Müller. “We need a major solution.”

Hinz&Kunzt continues to fight against the stigmatisation of vulnerable members of Hamburg society through the paper and by speaking out in other media. Müller said the latest comments are just the “tip of the iceberg”.

“We are protesting all the time about the issue, doing [TV] interviews and writing articles,” she told INSP. “We are not demonstrating on the streets but through publications. It’s a problem that pops up every now and then in Hamburg and Central Station is only the tip of the iceberg.”

Hamburg's Central Station is one of Europe's busiest. The comments made by Hamburg District Director Faiko Droßmann about his desire to clean the station up of “people who exhibit disturbing behaviour" have caused anger and frustration. Photo: Benjamin Laufer

Müller said that she could understand Droßmann’s aims, though he was missing the bigger picture. “I believe Falko Droßmann doesn’t want to be a bad man, or the sheriff in Hamburg. He doesn’t want people going around smashing bottles and causing problems. We don’t want that either, of course. But he must understand why this happens is due to the lack of shelter in the city,” she explained.

“Currently there are only places for 400 people – when all day-care centres are open. And this with around 2,000 homeless people. To find a place in permanent accommodation or even in an apartment is almost impossible.”

Maik, 40, and René, 39 are both homeless. Sat in a group beneath the projecting roof of the station at Hochmannplatz, they spoke to Hinz&Kunzt and told them they do not think much of the district’s plans.
Trained painter Maik said: “No one is here voluntarily. I would go to work right away if I had a job. But without a flat I will not find a job, and without a job you can’t get a flat. I would really like to go to work.”

René said he was concerned that Droßmann’s statement would lead to further victimisation. He added: “We are the lowest of the low, but we will also not let ourselves be banished from the train station.”

Homeless Maik spoke to Hinz&Kunzt following Faiko Droßmann’s remarks about clearing up Hamburg Central Station of “people who exhibit disturbing behavior.” "No one is here voluntarily. I would go to work right away if I had a job," Maik said. Photo: Benjamin Laufer

Hamburg police report that since the summer there has been a greater number of assaults on passersby by alcoholics. Officers have issued orders for those responsible to leave the site.

However, spokesperson Rüdiger Carstens said: “We haven’t enhanced our presence in the station.”

He added: “People won’t simply be sent away, but they will be advised of places where they can go.”

Müller said that it was essential that suitable alternatives were developed. “Before it was always the drug addicts who were being driven away from the station,” she added. “That issue was only satisfactorily resolved when the Drob Inn opened in the Münzviertel: with consultation services and accommodations. Today we need a suitable solution once more – including sufficient sleeping facilities.”