Eviction of homeless people: the city should shine

The city of Hannover wants to stop aggressive begging. A homeless woman reports that she, too, is to be evicted, even though she just sits quietly on the street.

Should not be officially evicted from the city center: Homeless person. Photo: dpa

Her small change is in a transparent plastic bag that has been crumpled so many times in her pocket that it is all milky. The homeless woman gets the coins from passers-by who walk past her in downtown Hanover. Again and again, people stop for a brief chat, inquiring how the woman is doing in the wintry temperatures. She is known here because she always sits in the same place, unobtrusive, but always there. The city of Hanover actually wanted to continue to tolerate such a form of begging, even though the city council recently adopted a new security and order concept. But the woman has experienced other things.

Two weeks ago, a city employee showed up at her sleeping place in front of a store near the center, says the homeless woman. She can’t remember a name, but he showed her a green slip of paper, she says. "We were just packing up our bags," she says. "He told us that no one was allowed to sleep in the city anymore, and begging wasn’t allowed either." They still have a transition period of four weeks, she says. "Then someone will come and chase us all away."

The city of Hanover wants to know nothing of such an announcement. "I don’t know what homeless people have told you about a ‘four-week transition period’ and a ‘begging ban,’" a city spokesman wrote in a statement. "That is not comprehensible here." Instead, he points to the concept adopted last November.

City of culture with less music

This was initiated by the Lord Mayor of Hannover, Stefan Schostok (SPD). He justified the motion by saying that the "need for security and order in public spaces" is growing among Hanoverians. Schostok is making a great deal of effort to increase the sense of security among the city’s residents: more than 3.5 million euros per year have been earmarked for the project. Most of this will be spent on a new public order service that is to start patrolling the city on March 1.

In the city center, the employees will then also keep an eye on street musicians and beggars. The city of Hanover has now imposed stricter regulations on both. Street musicians are now only allowed to play for half an hour, must then take a half-hour break, and are then allowed to move on to the next of 17 permitted locations in the city center. Hanover is a "lively and open cultural city," Schostok writes in the motion. "The designation as Unesco – City of Music confirms this." But street music can be a burden for residents, he said.

According to Schostok’s motion, the situation is similar with so-called aggressive begging. This is getting worse in public places in Hannover, he said. "In some cases, beggars deliberately get in the way of passers-by, sometimes even holding them down." In addition, beggars sometimes have children with them or are organized in gangs.

"I think it’s right that this kind of thing is forbidden," says Norbert Herschel of the Diakonie’s homeless assistance service in Hanover. "Otherwise you have no recourse against it." But if someone simply sits on the street with their cup, that has to be tolerated, he says. "That’s what the city told me, too." If the homeless woman’s account proves true, Herschel says he wants to talk to the city about it. "A big city has to put up with homelessness, too."

Quiet begging to be tolerated

Schostok himself had emphasized in the motion that "quiet, unobtrusive begging" was in principle "not a disturbance of public safety and order". The council majority of SPD, Greens and FDP had decided the concept also so.

Steffen Mallast sits for the Greens in the Linden-Limmer district council. He is not satisfied with the city’s new concept. "Instead of putting money into repression, you could also help people," Mallast thinks. He is referring to the new, personnel-intensive public order service. If beggars had to get out of the city center, that would merely make poverty invisible, Mallast says. "But that doesn’t solve the problem structurally, it just sends people from place to place."

The homeless woman also doesn’t know where to go if she is indeed sent away. "I’m known here," she says. "I have my customers here who are very fond of me." But how, she asks, should she fight back?