Ideas for a life beyond the street

Problematic parental home, sexual abuse, lack of education – reasons for homelessness are many. But what can be done about it? The parliamentary groups of the Greens and the Left have made proposals in this regard.

Young woman sits in sleeping bag on the street

A home, a roof over one's head, a family or roommates, a mostly full refrigerator, internet – for most people this is part of normal life. But for many adolescents and young adults, the same is not true. The German Youth Institute estimates that 37.000 young people under the age of 28 are without a permanent home, circa 6.000 of them are not even of age.

What can politics do about it? The Greens and the Left have made proposals on this in motions in the Bundestag.

What is homelessness?

People are considered homeless if they do not have their own or rented, secure housing. Minors are required by law to have a permanent residence with parents, acquaintances or a guardian. So-called "care leavers" are young people who have spent part of their lives in youth welfare institutions, for example in residential homes, and need the support of child and youth welfare services for the transition to a life of their own.

Sometimes young people can also stay with friends for a few nights. This is also referred to as "sofa hopping", but it is not a permanent alternative for young people and leads to an increase in the number of homeless young people who are actually homeless.

How does one get into this situation?

The parliamentary groups also deal with the question of how this situation arises in their motions. In the motion of the parliamentary group Die Linke, abuse, family problems, experience of violence or lack of alternatives are named as reasons. A young person experiences a traumatic event and the former home no longer offers security. "Others leave child and youth welfare facilities in which they have been placed against their will. Or the facilities cannot adequately respond to the needs of young people, whether for staffing, financial or conceptual reasons," the motion reads.

The Greens also emphasize in their motion that the path to homelessness can have different reasons. Apart from problems in the parents house it is often also the educational level. Due to a lack of school-leaving qualifications, the young people cannot find a job – and thus also have a hard time finding a place to live. In addition, housing in large cities is becoming more and more expensive.

What are the proposals?

So how can this development be avoided? Both parliamentary groups have very similar demands. The first priority for them is a so-called basic child support system. Explanation: Currently, children receive unequal financial support through different systems, depending on the employment situation of their parents. The basic child welfare system is intended to bundle and standardize current benefits.

The motions state that guaranteed training and equal opportunities are also two important aspects in preventing homelessness. Youth welfare must be adapted more to the needs of young people, since the causes of homelessness are often very individual. Therefore, funds for so-called street work in the municipalities should be increased.

Both parliamentary groups rely on the housing-first principle . This means that homeless people should first be guaranteed their own living space and then the necessary support services should be provided.

The Greens and the Left also call for changes in the Social Code, which governs state support for young people. Thus, the age limit for receiving assistance, which is currently 21 as a rule, should be raised. Sanctions, which provide for the reduction of unemployment benefits in the event of violations of obligations, should be eliminated.

Talking more about it

The Green parliamentary group also stresses the need to increase public awareness of homeless youths. States and municipalities are to be funded in such a way that they can work out structural causes in the best possible way and "use them as the basis for a targeted national reform program" can bring. In the view of the group, this also includes better systematic recording of young people without shelter, further training of actors in youth welfare and the creation of specific offers for young people.

The Left Party cites the sum of around 10 billion euros that should be invested annually to promote new initiatives against homelessness. In addition, from their point of view, young people should be given the right of co-determination to "guarantee structures of representation of interests and co-determination," the motion says.

The parliamentary groups' motions have not yet been discussed in the plenary session of the Bundestag. They were referred to the committees for further discussion without debate. What experts said in a hearing of the family committee, you can read here and also watch the video.

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