Emergency shelter still necessary, but no homeless students this year

While the emergency shelter at the Plutolaan is fully booked, neither the city, the UG, nor student organisations have received reports of homeless students in dire need of housing. It looks like, for the second year in a row, the shelter has been useful in housing the peak number of students.

It’s the first week of the academic year, and the shelter is pretty much full up. ‘There are six open spots right now, but they have been reserved’, says city spokesperson Manon Hoiting. ‘So they’ll probably fill up soon.’

Room-letting experiment

The city arranged for 120 beds this year. They also continued the room-letting experiment with HospiHousing. In this experiment, people are allowed to rent out a room in their own house. The city hoped this would lead to another sixty places for students to live. The experiment has been successful, says Daan Donkers with HospiHousing.

In fact, more spaces might become available soon: ‘There are currently approximately 120 homeowners interested in the project, and the number’s been increasing over the past few weeks’, he says. ‘But there are also plenty of people who just want some information about how it all works and still think about it for a bit.’ That means the number of matches is always lower than the number of interested homeowners.

No dire need

In the meantime, student organisations like the Groninger Studentenbond (GSb) and Shelter Our Students (SOS) have hardly seen any alarming signs of homeless students, if any. ‘Some people have found their way to us, but mostly to ask us where they’re supposed to after they’re done with emergency housing’, says Stijn Honselaar with the GSb. They appear to have received no emails from students in dire need.

‘So far, we’ve had ten to twenty emails’, says Ken Hesselink with SOS. ‘We’ve answered all of them with general information. That’s all they needed.’ It’s in stark contrast to two years ago, when SOS was founded because hundreds of international students were unable to find any kind of housing during the start of the year. Through a couch-surfing campaign, SOS matched 250 students with people who had a bed or a room to spare.

Improved communication

That same year, a group of SOS students occupied the Academy building to protest the housing shortage. After hours of negotiation, the university, SOS, and the city reached an agreement. Emergency housing would be improved, as would the communication about the room shortage in Groningen. 

The UG and the city of Groningen have been warning students this year not to come to Groningen if they hadn’t found a room by August 1. ‘We’re so happy that the information is much clearer now and that students are warned of the housing shortage for the second year in a row’, says Hesselink. 

Borrowed time

Honselaar also thinks the warnings are working. ‘I keep hearing people talk about them’, he says. ‘And I genuinely think students now realise that if you haven’t found a room before then, you’re kind of living on borrowed time.’ 

While both organisations are happy that this period is quiet, they also emphasise that the housing shortage hasn’t been solved yet. ‘It’s a shame that the city failed to deliver the four hundred rooms at Zernike they promised this year. That will always be a sore point.’

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