Dear International Friends,
As you already know, the Hungarian Parliament will vote on an amendment to the Constitution
that would encode the criminalization of homelessness into the fundamental law of the country.
In addition to penalizing poverty, the Constitution will also introduce a very restricted definition of family, limit the freedom of movement of students and seriously curtail the right and authority of the Constitutional Court, which so far has been a safeguard of democracy.
Please help us put as much pressure as possible on the Hungarian Parliament not to pass the amendment.
Below, you can find a lot of useful information about the proposed amendment and its negative implications for democracy in Hungary:
How can YOU help us?
* If you live in Hungary, join the demonstrations organized by several organization and citizens against the 4th amendment of the Fundamental Law on March 9, 2013 at 3pm in Alkotmány utca! Spread the news, invite your friends!
* If you live in the European Union, alert your representatives in the European Parliament to this issue and ask them to exert pressure on the Hungarian government to repeal the amendment!
* If you are an official or decision-maker in the EU, the UN or other international organizations, please go out of your way to publicly condemn the Hungarian government and pressure them to repeal the amendment.
* If you are an activist or member of an international organization, ask them to publicly condemn the Hungarian government for punishing its poorest and most vulnerable citizens!
* If you live anywhere in the world and have good contacts with the press, let them know about this issue and ask them to report it extensively!
On the 19 January 2013, homeless activists and their allies squatted an empty building in the seventh district of Budapest. The squatters demanded the institutionalization of a right to housing and an extensive system of social housing instead of punitive measures and overcrowded shelters. The activists were arrested and now face misdemeanor charges because of disobeying police instructions.
“We do not leave until the government and local authorities take seriously mass homelessness and housing poverty,” said Jenő Keresztes, one of the homeless squatters. “We are here to raise awareness about the tens of thousands of empty buildings, where homeless people could find their home. The majority of these empty buildings are in private hands, but local authorities also have great responsibility in leaving buildings such as this one unused for years. Instead of taking care of them, they leave them to dilapidate. This building alone could serve as a home for at least 10 families,” said Jutka Lakatosné, another homeless activist.
The squatters were supported by dozens of young activists forming a living chain at the entrance of the building as well as an ever-growing group of protesters on the other side of the street. The supporters were chanting slogans such as “Housing, not jails” and “Right to housing for all!” The head of the local authority’s real estate office agency visited the house and told the protestors that the local authority has no responsibility whatsoever either for homelessness or the abandonment of the house. Five hours later the police arrived in great numbers and arrested one by one the activists blocking the entrance of the building. The activists did not cooperate and therefore were carried by police to police cars. The supporting protesters first chanted “We are with you” right near the activists. Later, the police pushed them back where they could not see the arrests anymore, but they stayed until the last one of the activists was taken away from the location and supported them with loud drumming and chanting.
“I do not have housing worthy of human dignity either, I am just temporarily allowed to stay in an otherwise empty building which does not have heating. Nonetheless I do not fight for myself alone: we would like everyone to have access to decent, affordable and healthy housing, and we want the government and the local authorities to take responsibility for this,” said László Dombovári, a homeless activist. In Hungary there are currently millions of people suffering from various forms of housing poverty. Ten thousand of them are living in the public spaces or shelters of Budapest. Around half a million families have arrears that threaten their housing, and every fifth household gets behind with their mortgage payments due to lack of resources.
The City is for All supports the demands of the homeless activists. We have organized several marches to raise awareness about empty buildings and demand their utilization, spelled out our related policy recommendations, and protested for the codification of a right to housing and the establishment of an extensive system of social housing. According to The City is for All, the implementation of a right to housing should include a ban on evictions without the provision of acceptable housing alternatives as well as housing policies that ensure access to decent housing for everyone. Right to housing would not mean the provision of free housing by the state, but that the state establishes and maintains a system of housing policies that ensure fair access to housing for all members of the society.
Editor’s Note. Thanks to the Reclaiming Spaces mailing list for the heads-up. The blog post above has been very slightly edited to make it more readable.
We are writing to you as members of the Hungarian homeless rights advocacy group called The City Is for All in which homeless, formerly homeless, and non-homeless people work together for housing rights and social justice.
A draft law recently proposed by the Ministry of Interior would allow local authorities to “expel homeless people from public spaces” and to sanction “sleeping on the streets”.
We have an ongoing campaign against this proposed legislation, and we need your help.
Please help us in letting the Minister of the Interior know that the adequate response to homelessness is housing, and not police harassment.
Please send the following statement (or your own personal views) to the Ministry of the Interior [email@example.com] with a Bcc copy to our organization [firstname.lastname@example.org].
I heard about a draft law recently proposed by the Ministry of Interior that would allow local authorities to “expel homeless people from public spaces” and to sanction “sleeping on the streets”.
I am deeply concerned that the Hungarian government is taking punitive measures to respond to the problem of homelessness – measures that, by their very nature, are incapable of alleviating poverty, social exclusion and housing deprivation. The reasons for rough sleeping are to be found in the structures of inequality and in the inadequacies of social policies. As a result, these are the spheres in which change is necessary if we want to put an end to homelessness. Increasing the social housing stock and the level of housing assistance, and radically improving the condition of homeless shelters would also be possible progressive steps.
For all these reasons, I ask you to withdraw the proposed legislation and stop the criminalization of homeless people.
Please include your organizational affiliation into the email, and feel free to forward this call for others.
Thanks a lot for your kind help!
Greetings from Budapest,
The City is for All
A Város Mindenkié rendszeres műsora a Muzsikus rádión minden kedden 16 és 17 óra között hallható. www.muzsikusradio.hu