Homeless students in Groningen face the possibility of sleeping in streets as the city endures the biggest housing crisis in years. The student housing organisation Shelter Our Students is trying to tackle the issue head on.
Hundreds of students are currently without permanent accommodation in the city. Some are staying in emergency housing provided by universities in the area.
Yet these accommodations don’t have the capacity to shelter all of these students. Their capacity is currently at its limit. Some are sheltered in hotels.
Most of the people who suffer under the housing crisis are the international students who are new to the city of Groningen. They are still too unfamiliar to navigate a housing market which is in short supply.
Without permanent housing, they are living in fear of sleeping outdoors or leaving Groningen and abandoning their study.
“If I had no other option, I would probably have to go to Amsterdam to stay with a friend. I would essentially be forced to move out of Groningen,“ says Johanna Cepeda Hess, a homeless first-year student at Hanze University Groningen.
Cepeda Hess is currently sleeping on a couch obtained through the services of Shelter Our Students (S.O.S.)
“I know a person who had to sleep under a bridge for two days. All the homeless students are very concerned this will happen to them. They are going crazy.“
The severity of the situation can be seen through the rising numbers of homeless students.
During a September 2nd interview, Marinus Jongman, spokesperson for S.O.S., stated the number of homeless students registered for help at S.O.S. was around 500. In an interview conducted on September 14th, he said that that number had risen to 750.
The housing crisis is bigger this year than it has been in the past because of the Covid-19 pandemic, Brexit and various reasons, explains Jongman.
“All the people are moving at the same time. The group of students looking for accommodation got a lot bigger,“ he says. Moreover, he claims that landlords in Groningen prefer Dutch tenants, making it hard for the internationals to find permanent residence.
“I feel like I cannot start a normal life, I cannot look for a job, I cannot buy stuff that I actually need, because I am not sure when I am going to have space for it. Everything is very uncertain,“ says Cepeda Hess.
As a response to the crisis, S.O.S. organized a marching protest on September 9th. After which they occupied the Academy Building of Groningen University. Urging the University, as well as the Dutch government, to acknowledge the crisis and provide enough emergency housing.
While the official statement from the government is still pending, the University of Groningen agreed to orchestrate more emergency housing.
However, Jongman states that the end of the crisis is nowhere in sight.
“We see students in emergency housing as homeless. As long as there are students without a permanent home, we do not know when this crisis will end,“ he says.
Photo credits: Ev on Unsplash