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City council bans homeless in Budapest

What is to become of the homeless in Budapest now that they have been banned?

English translation of article “Mi lesz a hajléktalanokkal a kitiltás utan?”  appearing in the 4 October 2013 edition of Világgazdaság online.

In the future it will be forbidden to for the homeless to occupy landmark areas or certain areas designated by local governments.  The new law on vagrancy threatens those sleeping rough with imprisonment.

According to Fidesz “given the extent to which we help the homeless, we wish to the same degree to fulfill society’s expectations that common areas be clean, livable, and safe, where parents can allow their children without concern.”

The spokesperson for Város Mindenkié (The City Belongs to Everyone) told our paper that they consider the rule to be outrageous.  “Shelters are not the solution. Instead local government owned flats should be made available.”  She added that homeless who have made their home in forests where they try to live independently are now compelled to go to homeless shelters which fundamentally violates people’s freedom since they are not going there of their own free will.  She said there are not enough beds or private space.  In addition the new law on the semi-annual collection of discarded household items piled in the street (lomtalanítás) is not favorable to them as it proscribes digging through such piles under punishment of law.  “Város Minkenkié will act in this matter and may even go to (the European Court of Human Rights in) Strausbourg” she emphasized.

According to a UN estimate in Hungary some 30-35 thousand people live in the street.  Magdalena Sepulveda, special commissioner for poverty and human rights has, criticised the government of Viktor Orban.  She said to (German publication) Spiegel Online that the ban reinforced discrimination against the homeless and doesn’t solve the problem.  “It is not possible to compel people legislatively to move to shelters” stated Sepulveda.

Rita Bence, director of the Association for Human Rights’ Patients Rights Program believes the situation will not improve and that the current regulation is not a solution to the problem.  “That parliament would pass the law was expected, we weren’t surprised.  We’re afraid a lot of people will be imprisoned because they cannot pay the assessed fines.”

“The basic concept is unacceptable.  In the shelters there is no intimate sphere and not enough space” emphasized Rita Bence.  “Instead of one or two shelters providing a few more beds without this solving the problem, the matter would be much further along if they would use unoccupied local government flats” agreed a TASZ (Hungarian Civil Liberties Union) expert.

Gellert Akos Gal, the director of the Hungarian Red Cross’ Madrid street homeless shelter believes it is difficult to form any concrete opinion because it is impossible to know in advance what impact the adopted law will have.  He said they were trying to prepare for winter as best they could, and that most temporary or permanent shelters were continually expanding.  He added “it’s still better than being on the street.”

Budapest voters are strongly divided on the issue of banning the homeless.  45 per cent of those living in the capital city think the ban does not solve the problem according to a public opinion poll conducted in July by Policy Solutions.


Budapest Sentinel :