Beating up a homeless

Updated: Dec 11, 2018

Værestedet in Aarhus. A place where they take care of people with addictions and various mental and social problems. Credit: © 2018 Google

In the Danish town of Aarhus, like most other places in Denmark, a lot of people will be drinking stronger and heavier in the weekends leading up to Christmas.

“And when they do that, we see that more of them attacking us. That’s why we group together”. Those words come from David. A 52 year old British man living in Denmark.

Group together. Not like a squad of soldiers wearing camouflage clothing, armed with the latest warfare technology before raiding a house thousand miles away, not like a band of shirtless skinheads with clubs and sticks ready to beat up whoever to avenge a miserable childhood.

No, if you like David don’t have a home, group together means placing your worn-out tent, trolley, pram, bicycle trailer and plastic bags containing all you own next to other people in the same situation.

“We do that for safety reasons”, he said as he bend over to grab his swollen left knee in order to prove his point. The swollen knee is the result of the last time he was in attacked.


People outside Denmark sometimes ask me if we even have any homeless in my country. Our reputation as a society of flawless welfare always astonishes me.

But yes, not only do we have people without their own home. We apparently also have people who feel a need to beat up people without their own homes.

(David does not like the term ‘homeless’: “This is not the only thing I am. I like to see myself as a writer who has published four books. I mean, you don’t hear other people walking around calling themselves a home owner.”)

According to this ten year old Danish survey of 50 people living on the streets in Denmark, a third of them has been victims of physical violence when they were asleep. This means that someone kicked or punched them, pissed or spat on them, while they were lying or sitting down.

It is mainly young and drunk men, according to David, who said that the harassment and violence has gotten worse since he began a life on the streets more than ten years ago. He has his own theories about why this is happening, which relates to the influx of foreigners on the street. Foreigners who has brought with them a different and somewhat more invasive behaviour.

This might be true. But in no way does it give anyone the right to use violence. Just imagine that: attacking a person who is marginalised, extremely poor, often physically weak and sometimes too intoxicated to fight back. What a bunch of cowards.


David fights back, he says, and that is why his knee today is swollen.

He won’t go to the emergency room because all they will tell him is to elevate his leg and relax for a couple of days (I follow him on this one) and he won’t ask the police to do anything about the episode either. Even if they manage to find the attacker, it will be word against word, and here he basically has no credibility, he told me.

He pointed at me with my black and white Nike shoes, clean scarf and comfortable winter jacket, and then pointed at himself and his unruly beard, his mouth with quite a few teeth missing and his open shirts and jacket despite the cold, cold Danish winter afternoon.

“Who do you think they’d believe, if they had to listen to you and me and it was word against word. Honestly? Who do you think? Really? There is no way they are going to believe anything I say”.

Merry Christmas.


I heard this story and so many other morbid, funny, fascinating, gruesome and jaw-dropping stories on a two hour guided Poverty Walk. The walks are meant to give you a new and broader perspective of your city. It worked for me.

I can highly recommend going on one of these walks.

David is guiding in English and is a fantastic storyteller, but I can tell from reviews that other guides have left their guests in a similar state of awe. In Copenhagen they call the concept Gadens Stemmer (Voices of the Street) and this site has a list of walks in other parts of Europe.

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