Hungary's homeless population face jail for sleeping on the street

Oct. 16 (UPI) — Sleeping out on the streets in Hungary is now a crime, according to a new law that went into effect on Monday.

The law bans “habitual residence in a public space” and gives police the authority to arrest people sleeping on the streets and confiscate their belongings, CNN reported. The law also fines homeless people if they don’t participate in public works programs.

Attila Fulop, Hungary’s Social Affairs State Secretary, said the goal is “to ensure that homeless people are not on the streets at night-time and that citizens can make use of public space unimpeded,” according to the BBC.

But the law has drawn some criticism.

United Nations housing expert Leilani Farha said it was “cruel and incompatible with international human rights law.”

In a June letter to the Hungarian government urging officials not to pass the proposal, Farha said there are approximately 50,000 homeless people in Hungary, including more than 10,000 who sleep on the streets.

“It is my understanding that there are insufficient emergency shelter spaces to accommodate the homeless population in Hungary and such spaces do not conform with their long-term housing needs,” the letter states.

But the Hungarian government said there are adequate services available, including 19,000 shelter places, according to CNN. In addition, the government plans on spending nearly $ 33 million towards poverty relief.

But some say the shelters are so bad that sleeping on the street is better.

“They’re full of lice and once you get lice it’s very hard to get rid of them,” said Erik Jeczkel, a 47-year-old who has been homeless for 20 years, told the Guardian.

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