IUBH Students Encounter the Realities of Being Homeless in Frankfurt
As part of a research project, students from the Social Work programme investigated the living conditions of homeless people in Frankfurt. Together with their research partner, the Franziskustreff charitable foundation, they presented their findings in the Hauptwache U-Bahn station.
There are at least 2,700 homeless people currently living in Frankfurt am Main, 400 of them without any form of roof over their heads. Every day, around 180 homeless people come to the Franziskustreff in the city centre for breakfast. Over three months during the winter semester 2019/2020, 16 Dual Studies students from the Bachelor’s in Social Work programme surveyed the guests of the Franziskustreff about the realities of their lives. Along with Brother Paulus Terwitte, board member of the Franziskustreff Foundation, Michael Wies, Head of the Franziskustreff, and IUBH Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Meyer, the students unveiled a four-metres-squared poster at the Hauptwache U-Bahn station. For two months, around 180,000 passengers a day will be able to read the most important results of the research, thanks to the kind support of the Verkehrsgesellschaft Frankfurt am Main (VGF).
Many homeless people have no social support
The study found that the age of the guests of the Franziskustreff ranges from 29 up to 74 years, and that older people are particularly affected by their precarious living situation. “19% of those questioned are over 65 and are generally single. Only 25% live with a partner,” says study director Prof. Dr. Nikolaus Meyer. “This is a problem, as homeless people risk seeing their whole social environment break down if they lose their homes or are in danger of losing them. Without supportive social contacts, it can be extremely difficult for them to find a way back to an independent life.”
Large numbers come to Frankfurt hoping to find work
Another study finding, says Meyer, is that for German and EU citizens alike, the job hunt is a central motivation for moving to the Rhine-Main metropolitan region. However, he warns, “These hopes work out for only 46.3% of the guests at the Franziskustreff, and it is by no means clear that it is always a case of regular, stable employment”. EU citizens in particular often find themselves lured to Germany with false promises, only to end up massively exploited here. “Something unexpected happens, and then suddenly you’re sitting on the street with no insurance.”
Studying homelessness at university level is of great value
In Meyer’s opinion, it is vitally important that the topic of emergency housing assistance is dealt with in the IUBH Social Work programme. “We looked into it intensively at the beginning of the semester. In working with homeless people, it’s crucial to have a sound methodology as well as an understanding of social law and psychology. These are all topics that students will need again and again, in every field of social work. In the end, the specific target group represents only a minor differentiation.” Brother Michael Wies, Capuchin, social worker and Head of the Franziskustreff, supports the students with his practical expertise in the seminar. “Social work means both theory and practice. There is never one without the other. This is particularly true when it comes to emergency housing assistance. For us, it is wonderful to be able to support committed young people in demanding areas of social work.”
By the end of the semester, the students are also very satisfied with their first research project. To get to see the close interlinking of theoretical reflection with practical implementation is, for them, one of the main benefits.
The Franziskustreff offers a wholesome breakfast to the homeless and impoverished people in the city centre of Frankfurt am Main. The small dining room seats 32. Along with the breakfast, the Franziskustreff provides comprehensive social advice.