Yesterday, a new amendment making living on the street illegal went into full effect. According to Attila Fülöp, the state secretary for social affairs and inclusion, the amendment “aims to ensure that homeless people are not on the streets at nighttime and that citizens can make use of public space unimpeded.”
The law amendment prohibits using public areas as living spaces. The change drew the public’s attention and concern, and this past weekend around hundred people protested against criminalization of homelessness.
Demonstration Held Against New Law on Rough Living
According to the new law, if a homeless person does not leave the scene of the “offense” or go to a homeless shelter, they can be fined, detained and eventually put in jail. If they relocate and find another place to sleep outside but have received four prior warnings, they will be immediately detained and have their personal belongings destroyed without compensation. The lawmakers seem to have forgotten about the fact that many homeless people have pets that aren’t allowed in shelters. The new rule doesn’t address the animals’ fates, as pointed out by several animal protection foundations. Before the new rule came into effect, many feared how the police would act.
Law Change Affecting Homeless ‘Serves Interests of Society as a Whole’
However, according to Népszava, it appears that the police are in no hurry to test the dark provision: during the first day of the regulation, there were no traces of raids in downtown Budapest.
Earlier this month, Bence Rétvári, state secretary of the human resources ministry, said that the new rules were necessary because “earlier regulations were unsuitable to eliminate homelessness.”
Govt: Homeless Ban Aimed at ‘Saving Lives’
He also told public television channel M1 that regulations banning rough sleepers from public areas are aimed at “saving lives.” Homeless facilities will help people in need obtain “social services, clothing and [regular] jobs” and give them access to “public works schemes or training.” Rétvári added that “it is obvious that the way out of homelessness is through these temporary shelters.”
Rétvári: Special Preparations Made for Homeless Services in Winter
However, some argue that there simply aren’t enough shelter beds to go around. Even when there is enough space, many homeless people would rather sleep on the streets as shelters are said to be infested with bedbugs and body lice. Contagious diseases are also common among homeless people due to their lack of access to nutritious food and medical care. Many avoid shelters so they don’t get sick or have their possessions stolen. They are prohibited from consuming alcohol when entering the shelters at night. However, these places are heated and the social workers provide food.
According to Rétvári, the government spends 9 billion forints (EUR 28m) on services for the homeless and is working with “several hundred” charity organizations.
via MTI, nepszava.hu, index.hu
Featured photo: the ‘Homeless Jesus’ statue depicts Jesus as a homeless person, sleeping on a park bench. It was first installed in Toronto, designed by Timothy Schmalz, a Canadian sculptor. Since then, reproductions appeared in cities like Washington, London, Vatican City – and Budapest’s Horváth Mihály square.