Homeless in the housing jungle #2
Michael Zemedkun (26)
Master in clinical and psychosocial epidemiology
The last time we spoke to Michael, he hadn’t even had a house viewing. Not a single one. He was even about to cut his losses and go back to Ethiopia. His story moved one of our readers, a postdoctoral researcher at the UG, who offered to host Michael until he found a proper room. That restored Michel’s faith in humanity, he says. ‘The fact that there are people out there, willing to lend a hand is a huge deal.’
He didn’t end up accepting the kind offer, though. But judging by the way he glows with optimism, it is clear why. Michael nods, ‘Yes, I got a room.’ His smile is beaming.
He found this room on Kamernet. But what really helped him to get the attention of landlords was a change in tactics. Instead of checking out listings from on and off, he decided to take out time to follow updates without any distractions. ‘I spent the whole weekend just sitting with my laptop and staring at my browser. Everytime a new house opened up, I tried to be the first one to send my request’, he says.
After fifty attempts, this tactic paid off. He finally was invited for his first house viewing.
He wasn’t too optimistic, he says, because he was ghosted by a landlord last time. ‘I didn’t have much hope, so I even went to a soccer practice first and came in at the last minute.’
Probably because Michael was at ease and true to himself, or maybe because he simply got along with his future housemates quickly, they picked him to move in. Out of two hundred applicants and seven shortlisted candidates, he was told later.
Even though it is a temporary solution – ‘I am still going to be homeless in two months’ – Michael is content with his new home. It’s furnished and within a walking distance from his campus, so no more exhaustion from travelling four hundred kilometres a day back and forth from Amsterdam where he stayed at his aunt. ‘Free time is amazing’, he says, grinning. ‘I now have time to read and to sleep’, which is useful given the upcoming exams.
After that, he will have to resume his house-hunt, again. ‘I hope there will be more rooms available closer to November.’
His advice for other room hunters: ‘Don’t give up applying for a room. Stay online for a weekend refreshing your browser all the time. Dozens of people apply within the first ten minutes, so try to be ahead of them.’
Nico Hatt (19)
After two weeks in a room a Facebook stranger sublet him, Nico is now crashing with his friends. He still hasn’t found a place of his own.
Nico catches himself losing motivation and trying less hard. ‘I’ve spent so much time already writing emails. It became discouraging to send out new applications and just not hear back from them again.’
Since his monthly subscription on Kamernet was not bearing any fruit, the economics student decided to cancel it and find a better way to use the money. He came up with an idea and reached out to a rental agency, instead. ‘Maybe they know other people in the real estate business in the city who can tell me about the apartments before they list them online.’
That should be possible, he found out, but it would cost him 75 euros per hour. ‘I can’t afford to pay for more than two hours, so I told them they shouldn’t continue to do more than that.’
In the meantime, Nico started exploring adverts on the Facebook marketplace and even got invited for a couple of house viewings, but then alarm bells went off in his head. The apartment was cheap and pretty, he says, and the person behind it was just too quick and too polite to invite him for a viewing. ‘I am not used to those kinds of responses, so I traced the pictures on Google.’ And what did he find? ‘Turns out it was an apartment in Birmingham’, he says, laughing.
While he may be a target for scammers or Vindicat members wanting to exploit homeless internationals, Nico is not going to give in. ‘Even though I am quite desperate to find a place, there’s no way I am paying eight hundred euros for such a room.’ At least, as long as he is not alone. ‘Could you please mention that I am very grateful that I can stay at my friends’ place right now?’
Tami Kolowa (29)
Master in economic geography
Tami was busy attending house viewings organised by rental agencies the last time UKrant talked to him. But then he realised that renting an apartment for two thousand euros a month was too ambitious for a part-time working student. Even if he could split the costs with a roommate.
‘I was thinking, man, to jump on these unnecessarily expensive ads just because you cannot find something more reasonably priced, that wouldn’t be the most sustainable choice for one year.’ So he turned back to Kamernet.
A week later, he got lucky and found a place to lay his head. ‘There was probably a lot of luck involved’, he says. ‘My landlady told me that she got one hundred applications, from which she shortlisted five people. That’s a one percent chance.’
Tami feels really relieved now that he is sitting in his spacious room in the neighbourhood of Helpman. After having sent around two hundred messages and attending ten house viewings in total, he wasn’t looking forward to any more of them. ‘It would have been very exhausting to keep searching for a room while studying, working and going back and forth between hotels and hostels.’
Also, he really missed homemade food, so after weeks of surviving on instant ramen, he first treated himself with a dish of tortellini. He might have undercooked them, but the fact of having his own little kitchen is a game changer for him. ‘Cooking gives a recreational aspect to my day, so I’ve made some better food already.’
His advice for other room hunters: ‘Try to stay optimistic: the search is more devastating when you think it’s hopeless. If you are too tired of writing those messages, taking a break for a day or two may help.’