Hungary Solves Homelessness by Finding Places for All… in Jail?

Hungary Homeless

The brilliant move of Hungary lawmakers to criminalize the act of being a homeless person comes as a surprise to some. But this innovative solution to such a complex problem should certainly be known to the world. After all, this effectively makes all the homeless people – and the problems that come with them – disappear. From sight, that is. In fact, from the goodness of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s heart, these people will be given a home for free… in the form of a jail cell.

In 2011, Hungary started with their major anti-homeless laws. Homeless people were given warnings for their first offence (i.e., being caught without a house). Subsequently, they have been forced to pay the fine or be imprisoned. This is not news to the UN, who heard the following statements in a report presented at a UN General Assembly in 2011, regarding the laws:

[. . .] We also expressed our concern with the fact that the Hungarian Government chose to conduct costly policing operations to penalize homelessness, instead of seeking durable and adequate housing solutions for the poor, including those affected by the recent financial crisis.

[. . .] The Hungarian Government admits that there are currently not enough shelters in the capital to service the existing homeless community. It is therefore clear that homelessness in Hungary is not a choice, but a harsh reality,” stressed the UN expert on adequate housing.

But this is not just some flimsy law. The Parliament actually modified the Hungarian Constitution for these anti-homeless measures. Al Jazeera English provides this video report:

Echoing the independent experts who urged Hungarian authorities to adopt a national housing strategy, epha.org had this to say:

Blaming homeless people for their own misfortune will do nothing to address this social problem. If Budapest is really committed to make homelessness history, it needs to make a U-turn in the way it protects the people that, for one reason or the other, have been left behind, according to FEANTSA [1] President, Rina Beers said [. . .]: “Criminalising homeless people is not the answer. Criminalisation measures are cruel and ineffective, since they aim to remove the visible aspect of homelessness from public view, rather than offering any real solution.”

Perhaps it seems like this narrative was leading into a subsequent change in official policy or a significant – possibly uplifting – update. But no, this is the current state of affairs in Hungary.

“It’s not a Crime to be Poor,” ran one headline from Blogging LA. “Homelessness is Not a Crime” says the Malaysian Insider. Well… I guess they’ve never been to Budapest.

Welcome to Hungary, where the rich get richer, and the poor get arrested.

 

 

[For further discussion, see the comments section below]

[April 8 Update: This English-translated version of the law into English shines a different light on the situation:

Article XXII (1) Hungary shall strive to provide every person with decent housing and access to public services. (2) The State and local governments shall also contribute to creating the conditions of decent housing by striving to provide accommodation to all homeless people. (3) In order to protect public order, public security, public health and cultural values, an act of parliament or a local ordinance may declare illegal staying in a public area as a permanent abode with respect to a specific part of such public area.

Therefore, my statements above are to now be considered under the presupposition that the laws are being enforced to the detriment of the citizens. In other words… the above content is more like a “worst case scenario.” The ambiguity of the legal language in #3 is where the real issue lies, because it leaves the potential for interpretation, and therefore, manipulation. But the real question now is: how are these laws being used? Because when you look at #1 and #2, it looks pretty clear that they want to help homeless people. So it all comes down to #3.]

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9 Responses to Hungary Solves Homelessness by Finding Places for All… in Jail?

  1. Andrea Gerak says:

    Hi!
    You need some basic info on Hungary and its Constitution, if you want to write an objective article.

    If you want to dig even deeper, you find more data and background info for example here, with a good couple of related links: The world’s eyes are on Hungary http://www.andreagerak.com/blog/the_worlds_eyes_are_on_hungary

    Greetings from a Hungarian artist

    • Ryo says:

      Hi Andrea, thanks for the comment.
      The only thing in the link you provided (i.e., to your own blog) that has anything to do with this article was: “Another big issue the critics like to take up is that now it is illegal to be homeless in Hungary – “forgetting” to mention that this is only 1/3 of the article on the subject, the first 2/3 is about how people should be helped so that everyone has a shelter and other life basics.” But I fail to see how this is “digging deeper” or “finding background or data,” not to mention getting any “basic info” or “related links.” It was an out-of-any-context blurb about an un-cited article regarding the topic I wrote about above. What’s your point?

      I really don’t know what article you were referring to… but I actually provide links to the claims I make in my articles. I suggest you do the same, especially if you want to suggest that I am lacking in objectivity. If there was something I missed, please let me know. But just saying “You should know more about the constitution!” doesn’t actually help. I’m largely under the impression that this comment was merely intended to get a ping-back.

      If you can school me, please do. I encourage it! Otherwise don’t tell me I’m missing something.

  2. Andrea Gerak says:

    Hi Ryo, thanks for your prompt reply!

    Well, you are right: my article is not exactly and specifically on this very homeless issue alone. But what also closely relates to your posting is this that I write there:

    “So far, I haven’t found any translations of the actual full text of the debated constitutional amendments, and one can be curious: how can all those people who can’t read Hungarian and who only have access to biased and partial information, pre-digested in the mainstream news, how can all those people out there debate, criticize and protest against the Hungarian PM, Government and Parliament? People in other countries would go out in the streets to protest or flood social media with their rage – what details on Hungary’s situation do they really have?”

    Have YOU even read the Hungarian Consitution and its amendments? I can’t see that you would be quoting in your post the paragraph you are bashing.

    I do provide a link to the exact text – that is relevant, isn’t it?

    In my writing there are almost a dozen of links that will give you deeper insight into WHY is the Western media conducting a propaganda campaign against Hungary, controlled by the banksters and their IMF, EU, UN friends.

    My point is simply this: what’s the point of picking one tiny issue that is colored by one-sided opinions, without actual FACTS – without knowing anything about the big picture?

    BTW, the homeless situation you are quoting here from 2 years ago, is outdated: today it is 2013, and there are more homeless shelters in Hungary than what homeless people actually need.

    So WHAT exactly is your problem in Japan about Hungary’s Constitution?

    Cheers

    • Ryo says:

      Hi Andrea, thanks for the comment.
      I appreciate that you provided a link to the article to which I now know you were referring (sorry, I didn’t notice the paragraph you just quoted in your article before); and yes, that is kind of relevant. But only kind of… because I think you basically argue against yourself too. At first you say that people shouldn’t be debating without being able to read the article you linked to, but then you go on to acknowledge the fact that you can’t even read it yourself. Maybe I’m not understanding something there.

      One major purpose of this blog is to talk about interesting, if not obscure, human interest stories from around the world. I hesitate to call the subjects of my articles “random” (obviously I’ll talk more about Japan than, say, Egypt) but there is no actual pattern to my article topics. So the notion that I have something against Hungary – especially because of some Japan-related feud – is laughable. I’m often critical about people and places; that’s just the nature of this blog. But just look at three of my last four articles: Christians needlessly crucifying themselves in the Philippines, Japanese people saving the lives of strangers more than family, and the rape culture of the American military. Does it look like an anti-Hungarian agenda to you? In 215+ articles, this is the only one I’ve ever even mentioned Hungary in.

      The sources I mentioned weren’t just some random people from a “Western media propaganda campaign” as you suggested; I linked to the UN website. The quotes I presented weren’t from some random anonymous sources, we’re talking about two independent investigators for the UN. And as far as I’m concerned, a UN article is more credible than one that neither of us can actually read.

      So just to be clear, I have no problem with Hungary. If this happened in any other country, I would have written about it all the same. To me there’s nothing inherently interesting about the fact that this is happening in Hungary – what’s interesting is the fact that it’s happening at all. And I’m not sure if it’s outdated or not, but the video I embedded was a report from Al Jazeera English that was broadcast earlier this week, so that’s the most updated source I have. If it turns out that I have mistakes in my article, then I’ll write an update and fix it; but so far I haven’t heard any.

      • Andrea Gerak says:

        What do you mean here, Ryo?:
        “because I think you basically argue against yourself too. At first you say that people shouldn’t be debating without being able to read the article you linked to, but then you go on to acknowledge the fact that you can’t even read it yourself. ”

        What can’t I read?

        2. ” Does it look like an anti-Hungarian agenda to you? In 215+ articles, this is the only one I’ve ever even mentioned Hungary in.” – No, it doesn’t, and I did see that you are writing about all kind of subjects. So the question is: if you only write one post on Hungary, why do you pick a negative one? And why without investigating it properly, both sides?

        3. “…we’re talking about two independent investigators for the UN. And as far as I’m concerned, a UN article is more credible than one that neither of us can actually read.”
        So how independent the UN is, with their ties to IMF & Co. who are controlling the Western media?

        And again, what do you mean that I can’t read an article?

        Some update, if you are interested: What on earth is this ignorant nonsense being spread about #Hungary? on The Guardian: http://t.co/fMviUwIgTB and Hungary-bashers should take closer look at new laws, on EU Observer: http://euobserver.com/opinion/119692

        • Ryo says:

          Hi Andrea.
          It’s clear to me that when I read your article & commented around 02:00 (my comment says “11:17,” but that’s not Japan’s timezone) I dramatically misunderstood what you meant when you said “So far, I haven’t found any translations of the actual full text of the debated constitutional amendments” and ” For lack of time, here is the text only in the original language. If anyone can show us an English or German translation, it will be appreciated.” I wanted to reply to you as soon as possible, but I probably should have waited, because it’s clear now that I’ve woken up, that I totally misread that. Sorry about that! And you asked why I picked a negative article about Hungary, but you have it backwards. I didn’t pick an article about Hungary that so happened to be a negative one; I picked a negative article that so happened to be about Hungary.

          Anyways, I read the Guardian and EU Observer articles, and they were both very interesting. I see most of the things they refuted were things that a) I didn’t know people were claiming, and b) I wasn’t claiming. For example, the Guardian said “A year or so down the road – when there aren’t Jews hanging from lampposts or packs of journalists in dungeons – some on the left might feel a little awkward.” The articles were largely about such refutations, which had nothing to do with what I said.

          But of course, there was also the information on homelessness. And now that I see the translation, I can understand where the whole issue comes from. EU Observer says this: Article 8 of the new law reads: “Article XXII (1) Hungary shall strive to provide every person with decent housing and access to public services. (2) The State and local governments shall also contribute to creating the conditions of decent housing by striving to provide accommodation to all homeless people. (3) In order to protect public order, public security, public health and cultural values, an act of parliament or a local ordinance may declare illegal staying in a public area as a permanent abode with respect to a specific part of such public area.

          This is somewhat ambiguous. At least from an American perspective, where every word in a law can be (and in the US, has been) scrutinized and manipulated – to the point that we see how powerful those expensive Wall Street lawyers can be. Basically the wording of the law seems like it is made in the interest of homeless people, perhaps until the last sentence. But the real issue is probably the inclusion of terms like “specific part of such public area,” and “permanent abode.” In fact, maybe it’s just that Western media has become so accustomed to the words of laws being manipulated to the detriment of the lower classes that they see it differently from the people who made what I now suspect was probably a genuine attempt at helping the poor.

          I look at articles such as Paul Krugman’s piece last month, and it’s clear now – with the above translation – where they get to their critical conclusions. He said: “Homeless people fare badly in the mega-amendment. Last year, the Constitutional Court ruled that the government’s first attempt to criminalize homelessness violated the human dignity of the homeless. But now (Art. 8), the mega-amendment says that homelessness may be criminalized “in order to preserve the public order, public safety, public health and cultural values.”” But when I read Article 8, wonder if maybe the wording of (3) was simply meant to make it illegal for a homeless person to camp out in one spot and refuse to move. I really have no idea.

          So now, I think the real question is: How are the recent constitutional amendments being interpreted/used? For example, has anyone been put in jail for homelessness? What measures have been taken to “provide every person with decent housing?” etc.

          Thanks for all the links and information, Andrea! Let me know what you think.

          • Andrea Gerak says:

            Hi Ryo, It’s great that you were willing to listen to the “other side” as well! Many people who debate Hungary, have no other clue than what they pick up from one news article or from a German kids’ tv channel, and they go out in the street to demonstrate against my country…

            Okay, I see now why you thought that I couldn’t read something 😀

            About the homelessness issue, the point is this: “In order to protect public order, public security, public health and cultural values,” because it was a disaster how lots of homeless people were camping in metro stations for example, stinking up the whole place – AND refusing to go to the shelters!

            Just imagine: you arrive to a beautiful city as a visitor or for a business trip, to a train station which is an architectural treasure – and as a first impression, you must literally step over dozens of dirty people lying on cardboards, many of them drunk and you must hold your breath because it’s unbearable from their smoke, urine etc? Just because they are too proud or lazy to go to the homeless shelter.

            Or you go to a prominent, gorgeous tourist attraction which is on the must see list of everyone visiting Budapest, and you are pestered by stinky beggars and can’t sit down to a bench, because some homeless guy sleeps there, peeing under himself?

            And the Police who is meant to keep Public Order, had no means to deal with these people.

            I really don’t know who has a problem with this amendment and why: this kind of behavior is illegal for example in Sweden, too! You can’t see homeless people camping around the Royal Palace or sleeping on the floor of subway stations, because when they discovered, they are sent away immediately. Or taken in, if they refuse to move.

            I hope you see now better that this homelessness issue is simply blown up, to create a very bad image of Hungary.

            And the point is to really understand that all this negative fuzz about Hungary is simply about trying to break this tiny but resourceful country into obedience of what the NWO powers wish – but we are fighting for our autonomy.

            So here I have a question. You say ” I didn’t pick an article about Hungary that so happened to be a negative one; I picked a negative article that so happened to be about Hungary.”

            You mean that you just pick random negative news? Why negative, what’s your intention with that? Why not positive ones?

    • Ryo says:

      Hi Andrea.

      I guess that’s a fair question, though it’s really just founded on a misunderstanding. I purposely used the word you used (“negative”), but the truth is I never think of my article ideas in terms of negativity or positivity. It’s all a matter of how interesting it is to me, and to potential readers. For example, I also recently wrote some human interest stories that you may consider “positive,” like a 58-year old Japanese store clerk (female) standing up to robbers, or a bunch of awesome American students who put a stop to bullying of a special needs student. But I just wanted to talk about them because they’re interesting. It’s not every day you get the school football team – i.e., “the cool kids” – to put a stop to bullying. So whatever electrical charge you impose on an article idea, I will write about it if I’m interested enough.

      Anyways, I’m going to include an update in this article as a result of our discourse here in the comments. Thanks Andrea!

  3. ellenpolus says:

    hi Ryo,
    here you can find some additional info aboutr current situation,
    http://nemma.noblogs.org/category/english/
    best

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