EXPERT PROFILE: NIGHT OF SOLIDARITY: "COUNTING MATTERS DESPITE CRITICISM".
EXPERT ON HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS PROF. DR. MEYER TAKES A STAND
Erfurt, 07 February 2020 - This morning, the City of Berlin presented the first results of the homeless census as part of the "Night of Solidarity". Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Meyer, Professor for Social Work at the IUBH International University of Applied Sciences, has been researching the topic of housing and homelessness for a long time. His theses at a glance:
"One third of the homeless are 50 years old and older - there must be special programmes here."
The Berlin census gives important impulses on the age distribution: 28 percent of the respondents are 50 years and older. Up to now, we have had very inadequate help options throughout Germany, especially for older homeless people, and premature ageing is extreme on the slab.
Despite criticism: "The census was right and important!"
The scepticism in the scene, e.g. through the self-advocacy of homeless people, towards a state census was high. This accusation of paternalism has to be dealt with. Nevertheless, the census was important and right. Politicians throughout Germany need reliable figures for the appropriate structuring of the assistance system. Up to now, emergency housing assistance has been financed throughout Germany with the help of assumptions. This cannot continue. Above all, however, the census has sensitised society to the issue of homelessness and shown that there are people on the margins of our society and that we have to ask ourselves whether we want this to happen. That is a huge success!
"The numbers prove the need for research. Nothing more!"
The study has given us figures for Berlin, but to what extent they represent the reality there and, above all, in the Federal Republic of Germany as a whole, is an open question. After all, numerous volunteers reported after the Berlin census that they did not encounter homeless people in places where experienced social workers encounter homeless people in all kinds of weather.
On the current draft law: "So far there are too few official statistics on housing and homelessness".
The reason why there are no official statistics on housing and homelessness in Germany so far can only be assumed. But: Exact numbers can of course become quite inconvenient for the responsible municipalities. After all, if the number of homeless were higher than assumed, financial consequences would have to be drawn rather quickly, and that cannot be adequately achieved either in terms of personnel or in terms of setting up facilities.
Although the Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs has now announced statistics on homelessness, the bill presented is still far too little. It only records the number of people who are housed in a facility on 31 January of each year. What about the people on the street? They are still not recorded. The federal government should examine whether an annual global number could be collected in addition to the cut-off date. An annual total would also include people who were homeless before the cut-off date but are no longer homeless on the cut-off date and also those who become homeless after the cut-off date.
About the person
Nikolaus Meyer has been Professor for Social Work at the IUBH International University of Applied Sciences since 2017. His main research interests are: Comparative pedagogical professional group research, professional theory, social work and age(s), social work and homelessness, and "education after Auschwitz" as a mandate of pedagogical action.
Meyer worked for many years as a radio editor, as a consultant for a municipal company, in a community work project and as a lecturer in the training of elementary education specialists. Parallel to his doctorate at the Goethe University Frankfurt, Meyer was a lecturer and staff member at various colleges and universities, including the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences and the University of Kassel.