European Urban Studies (IPP-EU)

Dispelling Help

Sandra Schindlauer

The strategic dealing with homelessness in three German cities

Unemployment, poverty and the resulting homelessness are a global and cross-cultural phenomena. While the unequal distribution of resources is rising, the gap between the rich and the poor widens. The aggravation of this problem results in the certainty that this is not a temporary occurrence. It is one of the outcomes of the current economic crises in US-America and the European Union.

Against this background, it can be expected that the numbers of homeless people will increase
as well. As focal points of social grievances, cities will have to face a new quality of challenges: Beginning with the rising costs of health care, image difficulties, as well as subpar city structure,
intentional and unintentional segregation, isolation, and (structural) exclusion.

Within the academic discourse on poverty and the status of marginalized groups in urban areas,
the group of homeless people found remarkably little attention in Germany. This fact is surprising, especially because Germany's conservative welfare state social system is actually designed in a way so that no one is forced to live in poverty, let alone be homeless. So why are there more and more people without a home or a shelter in German cities and how do the cities counter this development?

While the answer to the first part of the question will be the structural framework for the processing of the PhD project, the actual focus will be on the different dimensions of the strategic dealing with homelessness in three major German cities. These include concrete measures by the responsible departments and regulatory authorities as well as the coping strategies of individuals and the influence of society on the perception of the problem. Furthermore, the function and the role of public space in the context of homelessness and the current debate on safety in the city shall be revisited. On the empirical level, the visible expressions of urban strategies that deal with homelessness (such as defensive architecture/design) shall be decoded and analyzed.

In order to obtain a complete picture of the problem, professional interviews, participant observation and mapping will be combined based on the assumptions of triangulation. Within the empirical research, the everyday life of the homeless people will receive special consideration. The establishment of contacts with homeless people will therefore be an essential part of the empirical work.

The purpose of the research project is to identify, analyze and systematize various strategies of dealing with homelessness in German cities with special reference to real life consequences for those affected.