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Cold snap deaths

January 7, 2010

With Germany in the grip of freezing winter weather, at least ten people are known to have died because of the cold. Experts say that the problem is worse in smaller towns and that more help is needed.

Two homeless men wrapped in blankets try to keep warm
Living on the street is particularly hard in winterImage: AP

At least 10 homeless people have died in Germany as freezing winter conditions take their toll on the vulnerable.

Those who perished were mostly older men sleeping in the open, under bridges, in doorways, and the remains of demolished houses according to the Federal Association for Aid for the Homeless, BAGW. There are fears that more may have died but have not yet been discovered.

"Unfortunately we have to assume that more homeless people have not survived the cold days," said BAGW chief executive Thomas Specht.

The high proportion of older victims is attributed by the association to general poor health from a lifetime of sleeping rough.

According to the BAGW, most of the victims were found in small and medium sized towns, while in larger cities the situation had been eased by the provision of emergency winter programs.

Call for good quality shelters

The group is calling for a national network of high quality, warm shelters to be set up for homeless people throughout Germany. It wants shelters to offer individual rooms, high standards of hygiene and flexible opening times.

There were 227,000 people officially classed as homeless in Germany in 2008, the group said, a reduction of six per cent on the previous year. Around 20,000 of those were living with no form of accommodation at all, a fall of just 1,000 compared with 2007.

Figures reveal a lower proportion of homeless people in eastern Germany, a fact attributed to a greater number of vacant properties in that part of the country.


Editor: Susan Houlton

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