Skip to content
Bed in ruins

Surviving the emergency housing Groningen set up in August wasn’t easy

What was it like to live in the emergency housing Groningen created to offer a temporary home to students who didn’t have a roof over their head? Bulgarian student Martin shares the details of his stay on Peizerweg 132.

How does it feel like to live in the emergency housing Groningen set up last August? Well, 19-year-old Martin from Bulgaria knows.
‘I booked The Village housing just to be safe. Of course, I did try to find a room. My dad and I did our very best, but we ended up empty handed.’
The emergency housing was the only thing left. Martin paid 63 euros per week for a slot which included a bed, a chair, a desk and a registrable address. The camp in the exam hall at The Village had 85 beds in total, all of which were booked within a few weeks time after the venue opened.
‘They had these fake, small walls. You couldn’t see the people next to you in their beds, but that was it.’

You see, I had these two suitcases, they wouldn’t have fit in there

When all beds were occupied, the temperatures at the SSH accommodation got extremely high. Regarding his personal belongings, Martin kept the necessary things with him and put the rest into a rented storage box situated next to The Village.
‘You see, I had these two suitcases. They wouldn’t have fit in there .’
Martin kept his food in a fridge of a friend, who lived in a student room at The Village.
‘The residents of the emergency housing had to use their kitchens, anyway.’

I was constantly afraid of not having a place to sleep for the night

Living the student life in Groningen while not having a permanent place to stay was difficult.
‘They enforced this strict rule requiring us to shut the door at 1 AM. I was constantly afraid of not having a place to sleep for the night.’
Martin and his friends often sneaked in through the other entrance and climbed over a bookshelf to get into the sleeping area. Later on, the organization dropped the rule, and the door was left open 24/7.

international housing
The exam hall where the emergency camp was set up

Martin isn’t thankful for the experience itself, but he is happy about the friends he made. The people he met at The Village have become his close friends.
‘I still go back daily just to hang out with them’, he says, ‘they really helped me get through hard times.’
Other students in emergency housing used to hang out in groups too.
‘People made the whole thing easier, because staying at the camp was quite challenging.’

Finding a quiet place to study amongst 85 students wasn’t easy

Once university started, things got really complicated. Finding a quiet place to study amongst 85 students wasn’t easy and searching for a proper place to live was distressing. Martin had a hard time dealing with it all.
‘After two months, I found a place through the Bulgarian housing agency called SimpleStay.’
Now, he has been living at his new place for almost four weeks. It has been a long and bumpy road, but Martin never considered giving up.
‘No, never, I didn’t think I wouldn’t be able to find anything, I just thought it would take me a lot of time.’
Looking back, he thinks people imagine emergency housing to be a lot worse than it actually is.
‘Considering the housing market here, it’s good that I wasn’t homeless’, he remarked.

I hadn’t had any privacy for almost two months!

‘My parents, however, were very worried in the beginning. They kept calling and asking how I was dealing with it.’
In reality, everything went pretty smoothly. It wasn’t until later, nearing the end of his stay, when things worsened.
‘After six weeks, it got too much. I hadn’t had any privacy for almost two months!’
The lack of privacy and personal space was the biggest factor causing him to feel down. The noisiness of the place didn’t bother him:
‘I’m a deep sleeper. It is what it is, you know?’
Martin is still waiting for his roommate to arrive at the studio they rented near the city centre.
‘I feel like… things are finally where they’re supposed to be.’
When he thinks back to the SOS housing days, he doesn’t have any regrets.
‘But I would definitely never go back.’

The likelihood of an emergency camp being needed next year is high. Martin’s advice for incoming students is to accept the offer.
‘Just hold on and be patient. Don’t subscribe to services like Kamernet premium. Just have faith that it’ll work out.’