By Kevin Pham
On Oct. 15, Hungary issued a constitutional amendment that banned the homeless from sleeping in public spaces. A week after the law was passed, there were three reported cases where police have apprehended a homeless person for sleeping on the streets.
According to EuroNews, police are required to order homeless people into shelters. Those who refuse will face punishments varying from community service and jail time to destruction of their personal property.
Hungary’s government has issued a statement detailing their $32.6 million plan to fortify homeless shelters and help those in need.
Hungary’s efforts to alleviate the homelessness crisis is attracting negative attention from all across the globe.
Leilani Farha, United Nations adequate housing rapporteur, stated, “[this reform] raised concerns of cruel, Binhuman, or degrading treatment against homeless people and persons without housing.”
The population of homeless people in Hungary is estimated to be around 10,000 people, exceeding the capacity that their shelter spaces can accommodate.
The European Federation of National Organisations Working with the Homeless found that, in 2016, over a third of Hungary’s homeless population are sleeping on the streets because they feel that shelters are unsanitary, sleeping spaces are overcrowded, and shelter system services lack accessibility.
Journalist Kara Fox states “the law effectively criminalizes homelessness and underscores [a social worker’s] ability to establish trust with their clients and to assist with long-term solutions.”
Hungarian police forces are attempting to alleviate the tension between the homelessness population and the Hungarian government by assisting people in seeking out shelters. Despite this, it has become difficult for police and social workers alike to make progress.
“I think the police are trying to behave humanely but they have to follow the rules,” explains Utcajogász
Legal Services lawyer Flora Kollarics. “The legislation [is] the wrong institution to use against homeless people.”
Ilona Faras, a homeless Hungarian woman, stated that she has been juggling numerous jobs since 1990 but has not been able to afford to rent a home.
The problems of poverty, displaced citizens, and lack of refugee homes are not unique to Hungary, however, their methods of mitigating the homeless population increase is drawing controversy from social workers and non-profit organizations.
“You cannot solve homelessness when there is no social safety net and it is almost impossible for someone who become homeless to get out of it,” states sociologist Bálint Misetic of the Milestone Institute.