“This threat comes on top of everything else homeless people have to deal with”
Ballint Vojtonovszki is an activist for the organisation A Varos Mindenkie (“The City for All”), which defends the rights of Hungary’s homeless population.
This attempt to ban homeless people from the public arena is doomed to failure. In Budapest alone, there are nearly 10,000 homeless people for only 5,000 spots in emergency shelters. You can’t put that many people in jail – the prisons are already overpopulated. And it makes no economic sense either: a person in jail costs the state 8,000 forints (26 euros) a day, while welfare benefits for the neediest are of only 5,000 forints (16 euros) per month.
For now, we haven’t noticed homeless people massively leaving cities. Most of them don’t believe police are suddenly going to start arresting them from one day to the next. But the threat comes on top on everything else they have to deal with, the daily difficulties of life in the street. Given the lack of space in shelters, homeless people are wondering where they will be able to go if they are truly banned from sleeping in parks and streets.
It has been tough rallying public support, because many people are sick of seeing more and more homeless people in the streets in recent years. But we will continue to campaign for more affordable housing, and we will hire lawyers to examine whether the new law is constitutionally legal or not.”