My Erasmus semester is officially over now. I tried to compare Switzerland to Germany during the stay but only found flaws so far in my native country. When going through the Altstadt of Berne something crossed my mind. Everything is always pitturesque, there are nice buildings and flags in every main road. There is no litter on the street and everything is just like time has stopped inside this inner city. Everything seems in order, wealthy and clean. You can see no trace of poverty or homelessness. It’s like an enormous doll house.
It is like the city tried to wipe out every trace of this flaw. When walking around a main station in any german inner city you would always meet beggars, punks with their dogs and alcoholics sitting on corners of highstreets. But not in Berne. There seems to be only one small square where they assemble but not past these invisible barriers. I was automatically thinking of Barcelona which is known for literally wiping off homeless people off their streets. It is a daily procedure there to clean “las Ramblas” with a water hose in order to dispel those unwanted guests. No tourist should ever see them because the city has to look pretty.
With that knowledge in my mind it really took my interest to know about homeless people in Berne. Sure, there are shelters for the night (as they also exist in Germany) which explains their absence at night but how do they make money and how do they spend their day? While doing an internet research I found articles explaining that begging is prohibited in Bern main station since 2008. Another (Austrian) article explained the problem a litte but came to the conclusion that giving beggars the advice to get social welfare solved everything.
I must admit that I don’t believe that. There is different kinds of begging which can be reduced to two big groups: state citizens who came into need or victims of human traffickers. The second problem got “solved” by a enormous measure taken by the Swiss police but what about homeless swiss people (according to Swiss media). But what about the first group?
Mostly they have to cope with reprisals in everyday life. There are being controlled by the police almost daily, dislodged from the inner city to the outer areas or sometimes even fined for begging. The city reported only the “good deeds to society” they have done when trying to get rid of human traffickers. It is nevertheless neglected what happend to the first group because everything has to look nice and pretty. Poverty does not fit into a rich society.