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Ban on living on the streets comes into force

October 18th, 2018

As the ban on habitual residence in public spaces comes into effect, left-wing and liberal commentators accuse the government of criminalizing homelessness. Pro-government pundits, on the other hand, contend that the government wants to help people in need, and accuse the Left of politically motivated and irresponsible behaviour.

On Monday, the constitutional amendments on habitual residence (see BudaPost June 15) in public spaces came into force. Under the new legislation, regularly sleeping rough in the streets becomes a misdemeanour. After three warnings, offenders can be sentenced to community work. Recidivists who refuse to participate in community work may be detained. The new law authorizes the police to destroy unattended belongings. The government asserts that there are enough shelters in Hungary to accommodate all homeless people.

Népszava’s Miklós Hargitai finds the ‘ban on sleeping rough’ both inhumane and un-Christian. The left-wing commentator accuses the Orbán government of trying to get poverty out of public sight rather than helping those in need.

In Heti Világgazdaság, Bálint Misetics deems it cruel ‘to criminalize homelessness’. The alt-left activist accuses the government of outlawing poor people rather than trying to resolve their problems and providing their basic needs.

Mérce’s Szilárd Pap thinks that local councils lack the resources to help homeless people. The alt-left blogger fears that even if they wanted to help the homeless, local authorities do not have the infrastructure or the money to give shelter to all.

On Index, Judit Persinsky writes that contrary to the government’s claim, there are not enough shelters to provide temporary dwelling for all homeless throughout the country, and even the existing ones are unsafe and dirty. The liberal columnist adds that homeless people removed from public spaces can no longer beg and so they lose their main source of income.

Magyar Hírlap’s Károly Bán rejects the accusations that the government’s intention is to criminalize poverty or to stigmatize the homeless. The pro-government commentator suggests that the Left has for a century criticized whatever efforts the government has made to resolve homelessness and habitual residence in public space. Bán finds it absurd for the Left to claim that it would be more humane to leave homeless people to freeze in the cold. He adds that under the Orbán government, the money spent on homeless people has doubled, and, as a result, no one has to die out in the cold.

In Magyar Idők, Bence Apáti also accuses left-wing and liberal ‘do-gooders’ of demanding in practice the right of the homeless to die in the streets. The pro-government pundit argues that rather than criminalizing poverty, the government wants to save the homeless by returning them back to the public welfare system so that they will have access to shelter as well as medical help. Apáti notes that in Budapest there are 7,000 homeless people, while a demonstration against the new regulations only drew 300 ‘deviant, drunkard lazybone’ homeless vagabonds. In conclusion, Apáti accuses those left-wing and liberal intellectuals who protest against the new regulations, of themselves being guilty of inhumane irresponsible behaviour.

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