Faces of homelessness

Six months on
& still no room

9 February om 9:22 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 February 2022
om 14:21 uur.
February 9 at 9:22 AM.
Last modified on February 14, 2022
at 14:21 PM.
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9 February om 9:22 uur.
Laatst gewijzigd op 14 February 2022
om 14:21 uur.
Avatar photo


February 9 at 9:22 AM.
Last modified on February 14, 2022
at 14:21 PM.
Avatar photo

Babatunde Oladipo

Age: 28

Studies marketing management at Hanze UAS

Needs a room immediately

Babatunde has been looking for a place since May. He originally stayed at the Martini Hotel, but not for long, ‘because it got very expensive’.  

He is now staying at a guest house. ‘The host brought in three beds in a tiny room and that’s where I’ve been sleeping.’ She’s been very gracious, he says, because he has been due to move out since December, but she’s allowed him to stay for longer. 

‘I don’t know for how long I can stay here. I just keep extending it; I’m due to leave, but I have nowhere to go. I don’t know if I have a future in Groningen.’ 

Along with room scarcity, Babatunde has had to deal with the issue of extensive landlord rules: ‘A lot of them require an income that is three times the amount of rent. There is no way I can make that much as a student. The rules are insane and frustrating.’ MJ

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Justīne Sloka

Age: 19

Studies arts, culture and media

Needs a room before February 20

‘We actually thought that we could extend our contract, but when we moved in the landlady said she wanted the space for personal use’, says Justīne. She considers herself and her boyfriend lucky to have found a place to stay in late August. However, once they had moved in they were surprised to hear they were only welcome for six months. 

They now have to move out before February 20 and the anxiety is building up day by day. ‘I’ve been looking for a new place since the start of December. It’s always in the back of my mind – a little anxiety, always. I’ve already warned my friend that I might have to stay with her.’  

For Justīne, it’s full steam ahead. She doesn’t have time to consider her situation and how it’s affecting her mentally, as she is solely focused on finding a place: ‘I’m not sad about it yet, just stressed.’ MJ

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Samu Tündérligeti

Age: 21

Studies spatial design and planning

Needs a room from April onwards

‘I arrived in Groningen in late August and up until late October, I didn’t have my own place’, says Samu. His first stop in the city was ‘a small, self-sustaining camping site’. ‘It was quite nice; lots of cats, nice people, and good food.’ 

He spent a few days in Airbnbs and hotels before finding places to couchsurf through the action group Shelter Our Students (SOS). ‘The people at SOS are the only ones who have actually answered the phone.’

He stayed in a young couple’s study for more than a month. ‘I’ve been insanely lucky. Hospitality is rare, so when you find it it’s quite nice – you just have to dig for it.’

Samu has since moved twice into temporary housing and is looking for a permanent place to stay from April onwards. 

‘The university should do more’, he feels. ‘Instead of putting blame on others, those who have the power should be more responsive. I’ve contacted so many people from the university, asking for help, and got nothing.’ MJ

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Lea María Krznarić

Age: 21

Is doing a master in psychology

Has returned to Croatia

Lea started looking for a room in February of last year, to no avail. She’s now forced to finish her year in her home country of Croatia. Fortunately, her classes were mostly online, but at some point, they were organised on campus.

When she came to Groningen for the start of the semester for her psychology master, she checked into a hotel hoping to find a room. The biggest hurdle she faced was scammers. ‘I couldn’t trust anybody, literally. I became suspicious of everyone who was posting things on Facebook and websites because they are everywhere.’  

Due to all the stress of the search, she couldn’t concentrate on her studies. Every day was spent looking for a room she could stay in for the night. It even started affecting her family, because they were worried about her.

Lea is now focused on finishing her master’s degree, but she still wants to visit Groningen in the future. ‘I really like the city, but the demand for rooms is just too big.’ CS

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Benneth Tochukwu Ugwu

Age: 35

Is doing a master in media studies

Needs a room immediately

As Ben was flying from Nigeria to Groningen, his sister booked him an Airbnb, as he still hadn’t managed to secure a permanent room before starting his master at the UG. When he arrived in Groningen, his hosts were kind enough to let him stay in their room for free. 

‘My hosts felt like it’s their chance to help a student who needs accommodation. So they offered me the room for two months without paying, not even for meals. The bike I’m using now was also given to me by my hosts. It’s been wonderful knowing them’, says Ben.

Although Ben doesn’t speak Dutch, one landlord suggested to him he write his messages in Dutch. Ben doesn’t agree with this, though. He feels that he would be misleading people online who will then discover he only speaks English when they meet in person for a viewing.

Ben has been looking for a place for around five months now via Facebook, Instagram, and Kamernet for up to four hours every day. He’s moved around twice so far and most recently sublet the room of someone who was due to return on January 31. CS

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Dennis Alder

Age: 25

Studies facilities management at Hanze UAS

Needs a room immediately

When Dennis moved to Groningen from Germany on the flip of a coin, he didn’t expect finding somewhere to live to be subject to the same odds. ‘Well, actually the odds are even worse. I’ve been to more than twenty viewings and not a single one has taken me’, he laments. 

’I’ve been staying more or less at a different friend’s place every month. First a friend’s sofa, then a mattress on another friend’s floor and now in a friend of a friend’s supply cupboard.’ 

Dennis has been so desperate for a bed and four walls that he even broke into his former accommodation at The Village. ‘I had a year’s contract when I first moved here and was on pretty good terms with all of the residents there. I’d simply had enough by November, so I got somebody to let me in, jimmied open the door to the room and stayed for several weeks. I managed to stay for three weeks before they kicked me out and threatened me with a trespass notice.’

Dennis has managed to stay remarkably upbeat, though. ‘It’s not ideal, but fine,’ he says. ‘I’m fortunately very easygoing and these sorts of things take a while to get to me. I am very appreciative of my friends, though – they’ve all taken excellent care of me’, he says. JFB

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Samuel Lopez Guadarrama

Age: 21

Studies molecular medicine

Has just found a permanent place

Samuel felt like he was a nomad, constantly moving from place to place. He’d been looking for accommodations since last July, but had only been able to get temporary roofs over his head. At the start of the new semester, he moved into a sublet for a month. Thanks to the help of a student association, he then met with a retired couple who offered him their spare room for two months.

Samuel kept looking for a permanent place to stay, but was only invited to interview for a room a few times, and none of them were successful. Luckily, his landlord extended the deadline. In the meantime, he found another place near Paddepoel, pet-sitting a couple’s dog while they were on vacation in exchange for a month’s rent-free living. 

Up until last month, he was staying in yet another temporary room, but two weeks ago he finally signed the contract for a permanent place of his own. He’s happy, but the continuous stress of trying to find accommodation has seriously influenced his studies, he says. LS

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Ristiana Eteng and Kevin Yosua

Age: 30 and 31

Kevin is doing a master’s at the Prince Claus Conservatory

They just now found a house

Ristiana and Kevin looked for a place for six months. They tried Facebook groups, real estate agents and many housing websites without luck, and so the family was forced to live apart. Kevin rented a room in Groningen, while Ristiana stayed with their 2-year-old daughter in a friend’s house in Goes, on the other side of the country. All three of them living in Kevin’s room would have been illegal.

It caused a lot of stress for them, Ristiana says. At one point, Kevin considered dropping out and going back to Indonesia, while Ristiana couldn’t find a job in Groningen because she didn’t have an address. They also couldn’t enrol their daughter in daycare. 

They finally found a house and were able to move in on February 6, which was a big relief, Ristiana says. Now, their life in Groningen can really begin. LS

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Liubov Antonenko

Age: 20

Studies psychology

Currently in a six-month rental contract

Third-year student Liubov moved out of her apartment in June 2021, thinking she could go back to her home country and take online courses. However, her programme then introduced mandatory on-site classes. She reached out to UG administrators and study advisors in order to apply for a place in the online practical groups so that she could attend classes from her home country, she says, but was turned down. ‘The best option that the study advisor gave me was to drop the course where physical attendance is mandatory.’ But she wasn’t prepared to pay an extra 10,000 euros for a study delay. 

Liubov has had to move four times last semester. She’s moved from friends’ couches to an international student facility. Now, she has a six-month contract in a shared student house. 

She feels her situation is more stable, at least for now. ‘I have to retake most of my courses from the first semester’, she says. It is a difficult period, since most landlords and listings she has come across specifically say ‘no internationals’ and ‘personal income of at least 2,500 euros’. But, she wonders, ‘how is an international student who is already not allowed to work more than sixteen hours a week supposed to make 2,500 euros?’ MJ

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Vlad Lukosius

Age: 22

Studies culinary sciences at Hanze UAS

Needs a room immediately

Vlad arrived in Groningen on a one-way ticket from Lithuania six months ago. Since then, he has spent countless hours and many hundreds of euros trying to find somewhere to live. 

Currently, Vlad bunks down on a sofa in a friend’s flat with a sweeping view over the city and its surroundings. ‘I love this city so very much. People here are so welcoming, my colleagues, those I meet at parties… If only I could say the same for the housing situation.’

Searching for a house has become a gruelling procedure, Vlad describes: ‘I send endless messages and then get blocked. I send another message and get left unseen. I send money and get scammed.’

His girlfriend will arrive in the city soon, too. ‘I really wish for her sake that she doesn’t experience the same hassle I have encountered looking for somewhere to live.’ JFB

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Name: Marie Guerin

Age: 25

Is doing a master in energy and climate law

Has moved to Berlin

When Marie started looking for a room last May, she couldn’t have imagined that all the ‘hundreds and hundreds of messages’ would eventually be sent in vain. ‘All available options were outside my budget.’

After three months at the Martini House emergency shelter and yet another three months of temporarily staying in a room sublet from a fellow student, French native Marie decided to leave Groningen for Berlin. 

‘My study programme is really demanding, so the additional distress of having to find a house and always getting rejected was taking a heavy toll on my mental health.’

In Berlin, Marie can afford to rent a flat together with her boyfriend. She feels a lot better now that she has a roof over her head. She doesn’t even mind travelling back and forth to Groningen every two weeks once lectures are held on campus again. ‘It takes three trains, one bus and six hours in total, but I am lucky to have classmates I can sleep over with.’ 

Would she have done anything differently if she’d known about the housing situation in advance? ‘I think I wouldn’t have made the choice to study in Groningen.’ YK

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Text by Christoph Schwaiger, Linhaohan Shi, Mariam Jamureli, Jonah Franke-Bowell, and Yelena Kilina

Never before was the room shortage in Groningen as high as this year. Hundreds of students, most of them internationals, were trying to find a place to live well until December. They started their studies while sleeping on a friend’s couch, in a dormitory with a hundred other students, or at a camp site. 

It seems like things have finally died down. Emergency housing shut down at the end of December, since no one would be needing it anymore. And even though a new batch of students is coming in this month, the city sees no reason to reopen it. Part of their consideration is the fact that student flat Cornus just opened. The building falls under SSH management and is available to international students in particular.

However, the dust hasn’t settled for everyone just yet. These students talk about how they spent the last few months or even the last half year looking for a room without result. They talk about the stress of trying to meet a basic need while also trying to be a regular student. Some of them even gave up the quest altogether and left Groningen.