Homeless camp rummelsburger bucht: not problems, but people.

There should be a round table with all parties involved – including representatives of the camp’s self-government. A weekly commentary.

In addition to camps, isolated tents of homeless people can be seen again and again in the city Photo: dpa

While the dispute over the controversial aquarium "Coral World" is still ongoing, the homeless camp at Rummelsburg Bay has again reached considerable dimensions. It is estimated that more than 100 people live hidden behind bushes, trees and construction fences on the edge of a wasteland at the Ostkreuz S-Bahn station.

The residents have made themselves at home: Shacks made of construction debris, tents and old caravans serve as dwellings. Some have even set up front gardens, fenced in with wooden pallets. Residents often refer to the camp as a "favela" or "slum.

Previous attempts by the Senate and the responsible district of Lichtenberg to find a satisfactory way of dealing with the camp have failed. An alternative accommodation in Karlshorst, which was offered to the residents last winter, turned out to be unsuitable for permanent occupancy. Efforts by social workers to place residents in permanent housing also failed: Significantly more new people came to the camp than could be placed in housing.

The district tacitly tolerates the camp. According to its own statement, because no problems are solved by evictions: The homeless would pitch their tents again elsewhere. On the other hand, the city hesitates to provide the urgently needed infrastructure in the form of toilets and drinking water, especially in times of pandemic. Apparently, they fear that such measures would attract more homeless people.

Perceived as a problem

Although the behavior of the district is very tolerant compared to other camps in Berlin, it reveals a cynical logic: homeless people are primarily perceived as a problem. One reason for this may be the many complaints from residents who feel bothered by noise and garbage and perceive the camp residents as threatening.

However, this tension between camp residents and local residents also offers a possible solution: if the conflicts between homeless people and local residents could be reduced, the camp would be perceived as less of a problem. The basic idea is that all people should have the right to use public space.

Residents often refer to the camp as a "favela" or "slum".

For example, by providing sanitary facilities and a functioning waste disposal system, the cleanliness problem could first be brought under control. More importantly, a round table with all parties involved – including representatives of the camp’s self-government – would have to be formed to discuss problems.

Even if these measures are expensive and certainly not smooth to implement, this would be a realistic way to enable the people in the camp to live in dignity and to give the residents a sense of security.

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