Daniel’s Lament

unseeing

Daniel is a 24 year old Danish university student whose apartment building in Copenhagen is going to be torn down in January. He therefore needs to find a new place to live, but the pricey rents in Copenhagen would eat up nearly his whole allowance.

So he pestered politicians gathered at a voter event out in Odense, the old Danish capital on the island of Fyn, to ask what they could do to help him out.

TV2 News treats him pretty kindly, all things considered:

Young man soon be thrown onto the streets—here he confronts politicians
Mie Juhl Lorensen, TV2 News, October 12

One important note for readers unfamiliar with the Danish system: Daniel’s education and “allowance” are both taxpayer funded. Denmark is paying for his university education and giving him 6397 kroner (about a thousand bucks) per month for living expenses, but he’s upset because, in the celebrated words of New York’s failed mayoral candidate Jimmy McMillan, the Rent is 2 Damn High.

Now let’s turn to the reporting from TV2:

At Sunday’s election meeting in Odense, he therefore tried to call out the politicians and ask them how they intend to solve the housing shortage and temporary housing situation faced by many young people in the capital.

(…)

On a daily basis, Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers studies at the IT University in Copenhagen. In order to make the finances fit together a little better, he also has a student job at the engineering company COWI.

“In order to be able to afford purchases and food, you’re under pressure. Especially right now, when prices are just rising and rising,” says Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers about his financial situation.

(…)

As a student, he thinks that the housing market in Copenhagen can be incredibly difficult to get into. Especially if it’s not just about short and temporary accommodation or room solutions.

“If I had 6,000 or 7,000 kroner to spend on something, it probably wouldn’t be difficult to find something. It’s this thing about the prices being so high that makes everything so stressful.”

Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers has today signed up on waiting lists for both student housing and dormitory rooms in Copenhagen. Here, he hopes to get an offer before he finds himself without a home in a few months—and thus, in the extreme, risks ending up on the street.

At this point in the article, TV2 News inserts a brief “explainer”-style inset on homelessness in Denmark. It feels a little out of place, like putting an explainer about bestiality in a story about someone who just has a lot of pets.

The definiton they use for homelessness is this: “Persons who do not have their own owned or rented home or room, but who are referred to temporary housing alternatives, or who live temporarily and without a contract with family, friends or acquaintances.”

Under that definition, nearly everyone I know (including myself) has been homeless multiple times—and most of us have loaned beds, couches, or floor space to “homeless” friends or relatives on multiple occasions.

I’m sure it’s a drag to be a 24-year-old university student with a job who’s going to lose his apartment in about ten weeks. But does it suck enough to literally demand an act of parliament?

Especially when there are in fact options:

As a temporary solution, Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers says that he has the opportunity to “couchsurf”—where you sleep on the sofa—with his closest friends. Alternatively, he could move home to his mother in Hornbæk in northern Sjælland and thus place himself around 50 kilometers from his studies in Copenhagen.

“It is not ideal for me because the transport time is so long. And then it’s just not ideal at all to have to live with your mother,” says the young Copenhagener.

Ah. So he’s not actually at any risk of being homeless. It’s not that he couldn’t find any options. It’s that they wouldn’t be ideal.

The most heavily taxed people in the world must therefore pay even more taxes so Daniel can have ideal conditions.

There’s a lot I could do for my family with money I’ve earned myself—the majority of which already goes straight to the Danish treasury—but surely our family can suffer a little to ensure Daniel gets his ideal living arrangements.

We must all do our best for Daniel.

TV2 isn’t quite as charitable:

Can you understand that some people might think that it is a bit spoiled when you say that you are having difficulty finding somewhere to live in Copenhagen, but at the same time make demands for both transport time and where you would like to live in?

“I know that I make demands. But I still think that—regardless of my requirements—it is challenging to find a place in Copenhagen. And I also think it’s important that we as students have the opportunity to live close to our studies and not have to commute too far, because social matters are so important.”

A very good point! Why shouldn’t we all suck it up a little so Daniel can tend to his important social matters? How selfish do you have to be not to understand that one does not simply walk home to Hornbæk after a night chugging Carlsberg drafts at the Moose?

But TV2 is relentless:

Now you’ve chosen to study in Copenhagen, where it’s relatively well-known that the housing market is difficult and rent prices are higher than in the rest of the country. Isn’t the premise that this is the way it is and that otherwise you have to move a little further away from the city in your housing search?

“I think that you should be able to live close to your studies. I know that Copenhagen is a pressured place, but it is also where a great many education programs are located,” says Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers.

Another excellent point! You should be able to live close to your studies.

It might be objected that there are several universities that are much closer to Hornbæk than Copenhagen—but those clearly wouldn’t be ideal, so we’ll let it slide.

With TV 2 ECHO’s microphone in hand, Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers confronted some of the politicians present at Sunday’s election meeting in Odense with what they intend to do in the area.

I’d recommend you go and watch the video yourself at this point, but most of you don’t speak Danish and GoogleTranslate can’t help you with a video whose only subtitles are in Danish.

Suffice to say, Daniel doesn’t get much help from the politicians who talk to him on camera.

Several of them acknowledge the housing crunch in Copenhagen—it’s impossible to deny—and a few express support for the construction of more low-income and student housing units in the city. But…

In several of the politicians’ responses at Sunday’s election meeting, definite and concrete advice was repeatedly given to the young student. The slightly different variations from the politicians were along the lines of: “Search a little further out” or “move to Odense.”

Daniel Bentzon-Ehlers emphasized, however, that he would prefer to find a home that is a maximum of six kilometers from his studies.

“No, that’s spoiled. You can move to Roskilde. It takes half an hour, and you can read on the train,” was the prompt reply from Alex Ahrendtsen from the Danish People’s Party.

I think we can all sympathize with poor Daniel, to a point. Most of us are very poor during our college years, and that’s just the nature of things: college students have little or no workplace experience and very limited life experience, and a lot of demands on their time, so most can only find crappy jobs for crappy pay and can only work at them for a limited number of hours per week.

To sympathize with his plight, however, is not to agree with his approach.

If you think the Copenhagen housing market is expensive right now, just wait until the goverment makes it cheaper. . .

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Soren Rasmussen
Soren Rasmussen
1 month ago

You know, I think I will have to change the way I refer to my wayward days as a student.

I will henceforth refer to that period as “when I was homeless.”

Ah, already I feel more oppressed, I tell ya.

There I was, a poor student. And homeless. Desperate. distressed, inconvenienced, even.

Why, I had to actually work alongside my studies just to make ends meet. It was truly horrible. It is only now that I realize the horrible mental and psychological anguish I must have been living under back then.

I didn’t even have a smartphone. It was rough.