Hungary bans homelessness

Thursday, December 1, 2011

As of today, it is illegal to be homeless in the European country of Hungary, as a new law prohibiting it comes into effect. Those who are found to be in breach of this law will initially be given a warning for sleeping out on the streets. Offenders may also face a fine of US$600, which equates to £382 or 445, or a jail sentence.

Homeless people in Budapest, Hungary, in 2005.
Image: Gubbubu.

A significant majority of the National Assembly of Hungary voted in favour of the law in October of this year. The Fidesz, a ruling party in the country, proposed the law on the basis that homelessness was becoming too significant a problem for the capital Budapest. The city is thought to contain ten thousand homeless individuals.

The unemployment rate for Hungary as a whole is approximately 10.7%. However, for the Romani people, this figure may rise to somewhere in between sixty and ninety per cent, according to International Business Times. 48% of those in the country without an occupation have not had one for at least twelve months, RTTNews reported.

According to BBC News Online, the new law has attracted a substantial amount of criticism from various quarters, including charities supporting the homeless, that it could not be enforced, while there are too few positions available in hostels, they have claimed. Hungarian Maltese Charity Service deputy head Miklos Vecsei believed that the laws were put in place due to the dissatisfaction of the public and had not been based on any professional or rational examinations. Vecsei believes that the problem of homelessness should not be outlawed but resolved.

István Tarlós, the Mayor of Budapest, told The Budapest Report that "those who believe that all problems would be solved if homeless people were given housing" would be "mistaken" in thinking so.

How do you think this law will affect homelessness in Hungary?

Mate Kocsis, the Fidesz MP that created the law, said that the issue of homelessness is one that should be rectified by the local councils of Hungary, while indicating that various recently introduced plans for and positions in hostels existed. Charities for those affected by homelessness believe that this would nonetheless cause one to three thousand individuals to have no shelter to reside in. Those who do not approve of the law are preparing to demonstrate to the National Assembly in opposition of it.