Fidesz MP Istvan Bajkai hopes homelessness in Hungary will become a thing of the past if his proposed law is taken on by the government.
Bajkai, who previously worked as Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s lawyer, wants to amend the country’s constitution to ban homeless people from living and sleeping in public spaces.
Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Bajkai said homeless people were becoming a “burden” on city-dwellers and were dragging down Budapest’s image as Hungary’s cultural, economic and political capital.
He added that sleeping rough shouldn’t be necessary as everyone without a home is guaranteed shelter, and support services, including day centres and night-time accommodation, are widely available.
But according to Budapest-based NGO The City Belongs to Everybody, it is thought that there are just 11,000 places available in temporary accommodation for 30,000 people sleeping rough in Hungary.
And yet critics say many of these shelters are unsuitable because they lack security, and banning the homeless from public spaces would be impossible to enforce.
“Sometimes they do not want to go to these shelters,” says Zoltan Aknai, the director of Shelter Foundation (Menhely Alapítvány). “It is their choice in the end and they cannot be forced to use these services.”
He added that to solve homelessness, Orban’s government should support the development of cheap rentals in cities or offer financial support to those who cannot afford to live in them.
“If we could move them towards affordable social housing where they could live autonomously, then a lot of people would opt for this and that would free capacity in shelters,” says Aknai.
It is not clear what sparked Bajkai’s controversial proposal, but critics suggest that an impending local election in Budapest may have been a factor.
Homelessness or to "dwell in public areas as a way of life" is an offence in Hungary, and is punishable by a fine, followed by a short prison sentence if it is not paid.