Homeless people can wear Nike

Inside there was a lot of praise for the warm atmosphere surrounding the project. In general, the twenty-fifth anniversary celebration in the Hamburg market hall was very nice. 800 guests came to honor the street magazine Hinz & Kunzt , including many homeless. Gustav Peter Wöhler and band played. But the nights were cold outside. About a week before the festival, Joanna was, one Hinz & Kunzt-Seller, frozen to death on a park bench in Niendorf, shortly afterwards a man on a factory site in Harburg. And on the weekend before last, the next lifeless woman was found at Michel.

If Stephan Karrenbauer, social worker at Hinz & Kunzt, remembers correctly, this has never happened before: three dead homeless people so early in winter. He can only try to explain: "People are getting sicker and sicker because it takes longer and longer to find permanent shelter." A sad finding for a birthday.

It was 25 years ago that Hinz & Kunzt sales began in Hamburg and the trend towards street magazines in Germany continued. A few weeks before the first Hinz & Kunzt issue on November 6, 1993, journalists, social workers, layouters, church people and the homeless in Munich had the magazine B.ISS (B.Citizens in Social Difficulties). A year earlier was in Cologne Bank Express went to press today under the title Outsider appears. It was the oppressive nineties. Germany was suffering from frustration, the euphoria of the Wende was gone.

Many former GDR citizens had lost their jobs in the east and were trying their luck in the west. Immigrants from other eastern states came, and the number of asylum seekers increased. "The result was that in 1992 the cities and towns of the former Federal Republic were missing 1.9 million apartments," writes Hinz & Kunzt founder Stephan Reimers in his book "Hamburger Mutmacher". Today there are around 50 street magazines nationwide. Reimers, 74, a Protestant theologian, a gentle man with friendly determination, had just become head of the Diakonisches Werk in Hamburg. He still remembers how he went home in 1992 after his first day at work through Hamburg's inner city and saw how homeless people were preparing their night camp in practically every doorway. "I was shocked." Then he came across an initiative in London. The magazine The big issue not only dealt with issues of the homeless, the sale also served as a source of income for them.

Today almost twenty German magazines are organized in the international association of street newspapers INSP, they all work in a similar way: The newspaper is the center of a self-help project in which homeless people move back into the middle of society on their own.

What to offer on the street when people prefer to read stories online?

You buy the issues, sell them for double the price and are allowed to keep the profit - at Hinz & Kunzt that's 1.10 euros per issue. There are rules for the sellers: they have to wear their sales badge, they must not be drunk, they should sell the magazine standing up. In Hamburg, Hinz & Kunzt has become a brand of social life and the sellers at their regular locations also become welcome neighbors. "This is important to us: that our salespeople can take off the uniform of homelessness and that others suddenly recognize the person," says Birgit Müller, editor-in-chief and founding member of Hinz & Kunzt.

She sits with Stephan Karrenbauer in the Hinz & Kunzt headquarters on the Old Town Twiete, which is hidden between the raised clinker buildings of the Kontorhausviertel. The low building shows who are the main characters here. Behind the front door is the meeting point for the vendors, most of whom are homeless, a coffee bar with a few tables. On the right is the offices of the social worker Karrenbauer and his team, on the left is the editorial office, which Birgit Müller has three part-time editors working full-time. Birgit Müller and Stephan Karrenbauer are satisfied with their work. Donations and the income from the magazine give them the freedom they need to objectively but firmly represent the interests of the homeless.

The boundaries between journalism and active poverty reduction are fluid. Hinz & Kunzt has already uncovered cases of rental fraud and wage dumping. The direct line to the record makes the magazine a medium that also inspires other newspapers. At the same time, it was a stepping stone back to normal for many homeless people; they helped shape work projects and their own winter emergency program. Of the 38 employees at Hinz & Kunzt, 22 are formerly homeless. 530 salespeople are in action. The recognition is great. But homelessness remains.

The three dead of this young winter are a sign. The Hanseatic city is booming, rents are rising, prosperity is pushing ordinary people to the outskirts and others onto the streets. Many people from countries like Romania or Bulgaria have to camp in parks or under bridges. Birgit Müller still remembers the time when she found containers unworthy of accommodation for the homeless. "Today we would be grateful for containers. We are already defending the last dry place under the bridge or the parking garage." Karrenbauer says: "Actually there is a scandal every day: namely that there are still so many homeless people."

The monthly Hinz & Kunzt editions are evidence of this development. They provide a lobby for those who don't have any. You could call it social journalism, but Hinz & Kunzt is definitely not really neutral. Is the magazine even glossing over the fate of street people? "We don't spread fairy tales, all stories have been researched," says Birgit Müller. Respect for the homeless does not mean always believing everything or writing past weaknesses and addictions. The stories are tough, not all end well, and those that end well are often about deprivation and setbacks.

The Hamburg street magazine itself is also struggling. Long gone are the days when 120,000 issues per month went away. The current circulation is 52,000, and according to the creators, hardly any young people buy the print edition. The online offer and social media are therefore also important for Hinz & Kunzt. But the printed booklet has to stay strong, the homeless have to have something in hand that they can sell. "We have to think about how we go in the future." Birgit Müller doesn't say much more about it. A plan is in the works. It's too cold in the city for Hamburg to do without its street magazine.