Should I give to the homeless

Should beggars be given money or not?

There are different ways to react to begging people: ignore, give, overlook. But how do you react correctly? has dealt with this question.

A ride on the U8 in Berlin. The passengers are mixed: workers, office workers, young people, tourists, parents with their children and the elderly. All skin colors and cultures travel together on the train. Also on board: homeless and begging people.

"Hello everyone! I'm sorry to have to disturb you for a moment. Just for a short time. I'm Dennis, 19 years old and I've been living on the street for three months. I want to get off the street again and even have a social worker that helps me to find a place in a shared apartment. Maybe someone has some change or something to drink or eat and can support me in this way. " If you take the subway regularly, you will see Dennis again. He tells the same story every time.

It is just one of many descriptions that you can hear if you don't shut yourself off from the outside world with your headphones or a focused look at your smartphone.

If you let people and their fates get closer to you, you will inevitably be confronted with questions. "Should I give something - or is he just drinking it?", "Why doesn't he go to work?", "How did he end up on the street?", "Why does the state not do anything?" Or also: "Is the story true at all?"

The number of homeless is increasing by leaps and bounds

There are no precise figures on how many people live on the streets in Germany. One of the reasons for this is that there are no nationwide homelessness statistics. According to current estimates by the Federal Homeless Aid Association (BAGW), the number of people without a home in Germany has increased significantly. In 2016 there were an estimated 422,000 homeless people. Two years earlier it was around 335,000 people. They mostly live in collective accommodation and not on the street. The BAGW estimates the number of homeless without accommodation at 52,000.

In addition, there were around 436,000 recognized refugees in 2016 who do not have their own place to stay in communal accommodation. Taken together, that results in an estimated 860,000 people in Germany who are homeless.

Poverty has many stories

Social workers and poverty associations observe that the homeless are getting younger, more female and more international. Many homeless people do not want to attract attention and live in inconspicuous places such as in the forest or in parks.

But why do people end up on the street? Dieter Puhl from the Berlin station mission generally identifies three reasons for this, even if each fate is very individual. He names mental illness, the clash of several severe strokes of fate, which he calls "biographical catastrophes", or experiences of abuse and violence in childhood that cannot be overcome. Those affected often have no social network such as family, friends or attentive neighbors who arein front take care of them after losing their home. "People become homeless when they can no longer find a place in society," says Puhl.

The municipalities are only obliged to provide emergency sleeping places and living space to avoid homelessness. What sounds bureaucratic actually means that people who can no longer help themselves end up on the street.

To help or not to help?

What does that mean for begging now? Nobody has to give anything. "You can decide for yourself in a very relaxed manner," says Puhl. So actually everything is fine. But what if the inner confrontation with the poverty of others is not relaxed at all, but causes negative feelings or a guilty conscience?

Under no circumstances should one be directed against the triggers of a guilty conscience, Puhl points out. "A homeless person is not responsible for your conscience, you are alone. But it is so that many prefer to say 'I don't want to see him because I don't want to have a guilty conscience.'"

Even if it can be perceived as stressful, dealing with the worlds of others in the sense of solidarity can only be good.

What can and what do we want to do?

Is every donation helpful or does it make the situation worse? About 70 percent of homeless people suffer from an addiction disease. Many people hate the idea of ​​funding any alcohol consumption through their donation. Puhl says: "Alcohol is not a condition. If there was a switch that could stop the illness, most would be happy to flip it."

When it comes to the question of whether the donations reach the "right person", there is no objectivity. You are free to decide who you give something to. Sympathy is a valid criterion here, as is the case with other interpersonal relationships.

Puhl thinks it is wrong not to help out of principle. "They need our support, they need our solidarity, they also need our 50 cents because otherwise they run the risk of dying."

There are many different ways you can help. You can give some change sporadically or regularly, you can donate to social institutions that help addicts and homeless people, for example. But you can also seek contact with those you meet every day. A friendly "good morning", which gives people the feeling of being part of society, can sometimes help. Or you can ask "your" Dennis if he would like your support in finding a place in a dormitory.

Organizations that work for the homeless:

Association for Berlin City Mission
Berlin City Mission
Lehrter Str. 68
10557 Berlin
Tel. 030 - 690 333
Email: [email protected]

Federal Association for Homeless Aid e.V.
Boyenstrasse 42
10115 Berlin
Telephone: 030 - 284 453 70

Caritas Association for the Archdiocese of Berlin e.V.
Residenzstrasse 90
13409 Berlin
Telephone: 030 - 666 330
Email: [email protected]

Diakonie Deutschland - Evangelical Federal Association
Evangelical Work for Diakonia and Development e.V.
Caroline-Michaelis-Str. 1
10115 Berlin