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Homeless in Hungary

Written by Super User. Posted in Homeless

Dear Friends,

On November 14, 2013 the General Assembly of Budapest passed a local law that designated the majority of Budapest as an area where engaging in "habitual residence in public space" is an infraction punishable by community work, fine and ultimately jail. In this way, street homelessness has become criminalized in the capital of Hungary along with several major cities that have passed similar local laws in the past few weeks.
 
The City is for All has made a video with English subtitles about the areas designated in Budapest as homeless-free zones. Please watch the video and share it as widely as possible to raise awareness about the disastrous developments in Hungary regarding homelessness.
 
 
For more information on the criminalization of homelessness in Hungary, please visit our blog.
 
With solidarity,
 
The City is for All
(Contact: Bernadett Sebály: +3670-217-2601)
 

A Város Mindenkié blogja: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu
A Város Mindenkié a Facebookon: https://www.facebook.com/AVarosMindenkie
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Activists of The City is for All forcibly removed from the City Council to enable the criminalization of homelessness

Written by Á Varos Mindenkié. Posted in Homeless

The homeless activists of The City is for All and their allies were holding hands, telling poems and singing around the chairs of the Budapest City Council members in the council’s assembly room at 8.15am on Thursday, November 14th. The group’s aim was to prevent the assembly from passing an ordinance, which extends the criminalization of homeless people to a major large part of the city. With this demonstration, we have made it clear that homelessness is an inacceptable condition, which should be eliminated through social policy and not punitive measures. 

Last year the Constitutional Court struck down a national law that criminalized homelessness on the grounds that it violated the right to human dignity. In order to be able to criminalize homelessness, the governing majority voted for a modification of the Fundamental Law, which now includes the state’s right to criminalize street homelessness. In September, the governing majority voted for a national law that makes street homelessness a petty offence on UNESCO world heritage sites (which is practically the entire downtown of Budapest) and enables local governments to designate further “homeless-free” zones. 

After the activists formed a living chain around the chairs of municipal representatives, István Tarlós, the mayor of Budapest first suspended for a couple of hours, and then ordered a closed meeting. Shortly afterwards, the nonviolent protestors were forcibly removed from the building by the police. The majority of the council later voted for a modified version of the local ordinance about the penalization of homelessness. 

During the sit-in, the protestors chanted poems, read the European Social Charter and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights out loud along with the following text: 

We came here today, because in March the government changed the Fundamental Law in order to enable the criminalization of homelessness and thus went against the ruling of the Constitutional Court, which declared that the criminalization of homelessness is unconstitutional. As the court stated, no one should be punished for having to stay in public space and homelessness is not a criminal, but a social issue.

We came here today, because in October the government modified the Petty Offences Act, which made homelessness a petty offence in the whole inner city of Budapest punishable with public work, fees and incarceration. 

We came here today, because today the Budapest City Council will vote on a new local ordinance, which would largely expand the areas in Budapest where homelessness is punishable. 

We came here today, because the local governments in Budapest are assigning more and more ‟homeless-free” zones where homeless people are not allowed to stay. 

We came here today, because we find every measure that is created against homeless people and not for them unacceptable. We find every measure that is against the principles of the rule of law, human dignity and solidarity unacceptable. 

We agree with the Constitutional Court that removing homeless people from public spaces is not a legitimate reason for the criminalization of homelessness. 

It is unconstitutional for the state to use punitive measures to force homeless people to use the social services. 

The exclusion, the discrimination and removal of homeless people from public spaces do not solve the situation of roofless people, but make it even more difficult. 

We came here today, because we believe that all human beings are created equal; we believe that we owe responsibility to each other, and we believe that homelessness is not the crime of homeless people, but the consequence of an unjust social order.

We want to live in a country, in a city where the government and the city council do not work on the exclusion, stigmatization, and criminalization of homeless people, but where the government and the city council work on providing home for every citizen. 

We want to live in a country, in a city where fairness, justice, and freedom are not just words, but the principles of public policy. 

We came here today to demand that István Tarlós, the mayor of Budapest withdraw the proposal which would enable the harassment of homeless people by the authorities and that he create a housing strategy, which provides homeless people with access to affordable housing and which prevents indebted families from becoming homeless. For this, the amount of housing assistance should be raised, an extensive network of social rental housing should be developed and fair wages and fair pensions have to be guaranteed. 

All human beings are created equal!

Housing, democracy, rule of law!

Long live the republic! 

Pictures about today’s demonstration are available here.

Further information about the criminalization of homelessness in Hungary

Note to editors: The City is for All is a group of homeless people and their allies who fight for the rights of homeless people and to end homelessness.

More information: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu

Contact: Bálint Vojtonovszki, +36204499110, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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A Város Mindenkié blogja: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu
 
A Város Mindenkié a Facebookon: https://www.facebook.com/AVarosMindenkie

 

 

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The Hungarian Parliament voted for criminalizing homelessness

Written by A Város Mindenkié. Posted in Homeless

By criminalizing street homelessness, the Hungarian government is once again violating fundamental rights and defies the judgement of the Hungarian Constitutional Court. 

On September 30, 2013 hundreds were protesting in Budapest against the modification of the 2012 Petty Offences Act which would allows local governments to create homeless-free zones, i.e. areas where living in public space is considered an offence. According to a late-minute modification by the Minister of Interior, world heritage sites are automatically prohibition zones, but municipalities have the right to designate additional areas as well. As a result of the law, which was adopted by majority the vote of the governing parties, downtown Budapest will be off limits to homeless people who are forced to live on the street. 

The prohibition zones can be introduced by local governments. In Budapest, City Council determines these zones, but local districts can also make recommendations and they have to be consulted by City Council about zones in their areas. The law also criminally penalizes constructions in public spaces without permission, which seriously affects the thousands of shack-dwellers in Hungary today. The building of shacks is considered an offence punishable by jail regardless of the zones. 

On Monday, hundreds of people attended the public protest against the law organized by The City is for All in front of the Parliament. Miklós Fekete-Nagy, a homeless activist said that the law makes him an exile in his home country along with tens of thousands of fellow homeless people. Zsolt Csizi, a man living in a shack that he built talked said that his home was essential to maintain some privacy and an independent household, something which is totally impossible in overcrowded and sub-standard homeless shelters. 

Anna Bende, activist and street social worker stressed that despite allegations by government politicians, official statistics show that there are not enough places for homeless people in the shelter system. In Budapest only, there are at least 4,000 people living in public spaces. She warned that the law is likely to have very dangerous consequences. Once it is passed people living on the streets will be forced into hiding and social workers will not be able to find them, which is especially worrisome with the approaching winter. 

The City is for All condemns the law, as it provides no real solutions for homelessness, but simply seeks to cover up the social crisis in Hungary today. The group has long been campaigning for sustainable and long-term solutions for the housing crisis such as the development of the social housing sector, the introduction of more substantial and equitable housing benefits, and the utilization of empty units and buildings. 

Photos about the protest 

More information:

European Parliament hearing about the criminalization of poverty

Hungary is about to criminalize homelessness once again

A brief history of the criminalization of homelessness in Hungary 

Note to editors: The City is for All is a group of homeless people and their allies who fight for the rights of homeless people and to end homelessness. More information: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu 

Contact: Tessza Udvarhelyi +36 20 381 8996, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

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AVáros Mindenkié rendszeres műsora a Muzsikus rádión minden kedden 16 és 17 óra között hallható. www.muzsikusradio.hu

A műsorok letölthetők blogunkról is: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu

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CALL FOR SOLIDARITY WITH HOMELESS PEOPLE IN HUNGARY

Written by Á Varos Mindenkié. Posted in Homeless

We invite our friends all over the world to join our struggle against the tragic changes in the Hungarian legislation concerning homelessness. Our call is desperate in the sense that, despite all the good reasons and even an opposing Constitutional Court decision, a last ray of hope is the clear and strong objection of the international community to the criminalization of homelessness. 

As you may already know, the Hungarian government has taken a series of oppressive actions against homeless people over the past three years. These ordinances, laws and local actions seriously violate the dignity of thousands of citizens living in poverty. While hardly taking any positive and sustainable measures to ensure the social rights of Hungary’s most vulnerable citizens, the government’s approach to poverty and homelessness has been predominantly punitive. 

In November 2012, the Constitutional Court struck down a law that criminalized street homelessness, arguing that the state should address homelessness as a social and not a criminal issue. In response, the governing party decided to change the Constitution itself, enabling local governments to punish “habitual residence in public spaces” and define further “antisocial” behaviors. 

Currently, the Hungarian Parliament is once again debating the modification of the Penal Code that would define street homelessness an infraction punishable by fine, community service or jail (for “repeat offenders”). In this way, the government is ignoring the serious criticism that has come from the Commissioner for Civil Rights, the Catholic community of Sant’Egidio, FEANTSA (the European umbrella organization of homeless service providers) and two special rapporteurs of the UN, among many others. 

In addition to penalizing street homeless, the new law introduces a new element by criminalizing the building of shacks in public places. Today, self-built shacks provide a home for thousands of people in Hungary. If the law is passed, their very existence will become a crime. 

We, homeless and ally members of The City is for All are asking you to help us stop this inhumane piece of legislation and express your solidarity with homeless people in Hungary. We suggest two ways of doing so: 

-          Please send a brief letter to the Hungarian Minister of Interior, Sándor Pintér, who submitted the modification and ask him to withdraw the legislation. His address is: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. (please cc us in your email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.).

-          If your time and resources allow, you may also organize a solidarity demonstration on or before September 30, 2013 (the day of the vote and a large demonstration by The City is for All). If you do so, please send us pictures or videos so that we can publicize on our website and Facebook-page the international protest against the ongoing war on poor people in Hungary. 

We hope that you will find a way to support our struggle. If you have any question regarding the events to be organized, the documentation, or the campaign itself, please feel free to contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. 

Thank you for all your support! 

The City is for All

www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu

 
A Város Mindenkié rendszeres műsora a Muzsikus rádión minden kedden 16 és 17 óra között hallható. www.muzsikusradio.hu

A műsorok letölthetők blogunkról is: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu

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Hungary is about to criminalise homelessness once again

Written by A Varos Mindenkie. Posted in Homeless

By passing a new law that would criminalize street homelessness, the Hungarian government is once again about to violate the fundamental right to human dignity, defy the country’s international obligations, and go directly in the face of the judgement of Hungarian Constitutional Court. 

The Minister of Interior proposed the modification of the Act on Petty Offences in April 2013 to allow local municipalities to penalize the use of public spaces for habitation in order to preserve public order, public safety, public health and cultural values. The law would also penalize the building of huts/shacks without permission. The parliamentary debate of the proposal started this week, and the final vote will most probably take place on September 23 or 24, 2013. 

The City is for All is once again standing up against the government’s latest attempt to criminalize street homelessness without providing any meaningful alternatives for dignified housing. If the proposal is passed, thousands of people who are currently forced to live in public spaces could be criminally persecuted or would be forced out of “prohibited areas”. The mayor of Budapest has already announced the creation of such “zones of prohibition” covering most of the downtown area of the capital. 

Today, the number of homeless people in Hungary far exceeds the capacity of homeless shelters. Besides, existing shelters are mostly overcrowded, and offer rather undignified living conditions. It is very difficult for people to break out of the cycle of poverty and homelessness, since the availability of social housing is very limited. In addition, financial support for housing is very low. The passing of this proposal would mean that many of the most vulnerable Hungarians would have to go into hiding from authorities. As a result, it will be much more difficult for social workers to reach them, which is especially troubling with the winter months approaching. 

It is important to point out that a very similar law had already been introduced by the Hungarian government in November 2011. At that time, the criminalization of homelessness sparked public outrage both in Hungary and abroad. For example, the UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing and the Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty issued a joint statement calling on the Hungarian government to provide “roofs, not handcuffs” for homeless people. 

In November 2012, the Hungarian Constitutional Court annulled this law, arguing that the criminalization of a social status violated the right to human dignity. The Court also stated that “[h]omelessness is a social problem, which shall be dealt with by the state with means of social services, instead of punishment.” The current proposal was made possible by the 4th modification of the Hungarian Constitution, which overrode the Constitutional Court’s 2012 decision. 

The City is for All has called on the members of Parliament to vote against the new law, and is urging the government to focus on sustainable and long-term solutions to homelessness through social and housing means instead of the criminal persecution of homeless people. 

In the attachment, you can find a detiled history of the criminalization of homelessness between 2010 and 2013. 

Note to editors: The City is for All is a group of homeless people and their allies who fight for the rights of homeless people and to end homelessness. More information: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu

Contact: Bernadett Sebály +3670-217-2641, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

 A Város Mindenkié rendszeres műsora a Muzsikus rádión minden kedden 16 és 17 óra között hallható. www.muzsikusradio.hu

A műsorok letölthetők blogunkról is: www.avarosmindenkie.blog.hu