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Internationals flock to emergency housing: ‘I thought I was going to be homeless’

Beds at the Martinihouse emergency accommodation are rapidly filling up with international students. Finding a room in Groningen from abroad is near impossible, they say. ‘Nobody replied to my messages.’  

‘I’m desperate’, says Ethan Wong, a medicine student from China, as he is queuing up to sign a short-stay contract with housing company SSH. It’s been two months since he started searching for a student room through Facebook groups and rental platforms, but to no avail. ‘Nobody replied to my messages and I don’t know who’s actually lucky enough to find a room in Groningen.’ 

Ethan is not the only one who has had to take refuge at the Martinihouse emergency accommodation. As of Tuesday morning, 91 out of 125 beds were taken. ‘We accommodated sixty students the day we opened up, so we expect all the beds to be occupied by the end of the week’, one of the location managers says. She emphasizes that the Martinihouse is only a temporary solution: tenants are expected to find permanent housing and check out by mid-October.

No answer

Masa Faddah from Jordan has just moved into the accommodation after two months of fruitless house hunting from abroad. ‘I thought I was going to be homeless’, she says. ‘I looked at all the rental platforms and sent more than fifty messages on Facebook, and there was no answer whatsoever.’

The first-year student arrived in Groningen last week and secured her bed first thing on Sunday. She’s happy with her shared room, she says: it’s neat and there’s a private bathroom. 

Dutch bank account

Chemical engineering student Stavroula Fili from Greece wasn’t able to find a roof above her head from abroad, either. Even when she did get a reply from potential roommates, she didn’t stand a chance because she couldn’t attend the house viewing. 

She also had no luck with housing agencies and websites like Kamernet and Pararius. Since many of them required either a Dutch bank account or a Dutch phone number, she had no other option than to fly to the Netherlands and continue her search from the temporary accommodation.‘I hope I will find a place while staying here, because if I don’t, then I don’t know if I’ll be able to actually stay in Groningen for my studies.’  

Lucky 

But it’s not impossible to find a room, as Irish journalism master student Louis Brady proves. He, too, struggled to secure anything from abroad and started looking into temporary options. After he posted his story in a Facebook group, a few people reached out to him offering rooms in their parents’ houses in nearby villages. 

In the meantime, Louis moved to Groningen and got lucky. ‘I’ve had nothing for months and then, suddenly, I ended up having four viewings and even booked a room yesterday’, he says. ‘I’m very much relieved.’ 

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