Trendy bars and restaurants have made Frankfurt’s Bahnhofsviertel a popular place to go out in recent years. Then came the coronavirus. The city responds with police checks and an emergency program for drug addicts.
Barricaded restaurants, illegal street prostitution, bunches of drug addicts on the sidewalk: The consequences of the corona pandemic shape the picture in Frankfurt’s station district at the end of the year. Women in close-fitting clothing stand alone or in groups at the corners of houses and wait for clients. As bars, strip bars and brothels in the red light district had to close due to the risk of infection, prostitutes are looking for other ways to earn money.
So does Ana. “I go to regular customers whom I have known for a long time,” says the prostitute. This is how she makes ends meet financially. She doesn’t want to recruit new customers on the street – too unsafe. “When there are problems, there is no one to help me.” In view of the high number of infections, she can understand that brothels are currently closed. In between, however, they were open again in other federal states, criticizes Ana, who has been working as a prostitute in Germany for twelve years.
Brothel operator fights for opening
The Pole is allowed to live for free in the Laufhaus in Taunusstrasse where she normally works, the Sex Inn. Operator Nadine Maletzki has been campaigning for a reopening for months, so far in vain: She took legal action against the closure of prostitution sites, demonstrated, wrote to the state government and recently published an appeal together with others warning that prostitutes would contact the Marginalized society. The women continued to work, “under catastrophic hygienic conditions, in apartments and hotels,” says Maletzki. Prostitution places such as brothels, on the other hand, have to remain closed due to the risk of infection, which is not understandable.
“The situation is tense,” says the Frankfurt security department head Markus Frank (CDU). State and city police are in action, there are regular controls against street prostitution, emphasized the Frankfurt police headquarters. “The women pay the fine and carry on,” says Maletzki. The consequences of the pandemic also hit drug addicts and the places where they can find help. The consumption rooms, in which they can sit down syringes under hygienic conditions, had to reduce their number in order to guarantee distances.
Since the offer of help attracts addicts, including those from the surrounding area, it repeatedly calls out critics. In a study by the Institute for Addiction Research at the Frankfurt University of Applied Sciences, consumption rooms were recently praised as a “particularly effective instrument” of Frankfurt’s drug policy, also because they relieved public space. The scientists demanded that we should continue on this path.
In almost 200 interviews with drug users, local residents and experts on the subject of safety, it was found that most of the respondents perceived alcoholic men as a significantly higher risk than drug users. Often the feeling of insecurity related to problems that were not directly related to drugs, such as homelessness or littering. But also the visible misery of the addicts was described as an important factor for the subjective malaise.
Experts, residents and passers-by, however, agreed “that the consumers themselves often do not pose any risk,” the researchers concluded. Frankfurt and Hessen should campaign for the regulation of illegalized substances for personal use, they demand.
In the Frankfurt Römer, the CDU introduced a proposal for a “pragmatic drug policy” to the coalition. Past successes have declined due to Corona, a new path must be taken. The model comes from Switzerland: the aim of Zurich’s drug policy is “city tolerance”, not abstinence. Consumption and “small trade” are allowed in sheltered areas, there is zero tolerance on the street. Street workers in uniform act as “custodians of the public space”.
In order to initially alleviate the consequences of the pandemic, Frankfurt made readjustments and launched an emergency plan that should take effect at the beginning of the new year. This includes better medical and psychiatric care, more emergency sleeping places and open consumption rooms around the clock. According to the city, there are currently between 100 and 200 homeless drug addicts living in the station district.
An additional humanitarian consultation is planned for them; they could also start substitution treatment there. Additional beds are to be financed from an emergency fund. “At the same time, we hope that the situation will improve for the residents too,” said Daniela Birkenfeld, head of the social affairs department (CDU).
Source: Gießener Allgemeine