Radio Freethinker

Vancouver's Number 1 Skeptical Podcast and Radio Show

Saturday Stub: Hungary Outlaws Homeless

Posted by Ethan Clow on December 3, 2011

When I first saw this headline I was impressed. Oh wow. Hungary has outlawed homelessness, how interesting! But then I read it a bit more carefully. Hungary has outlawed homeless people. Ah, that makes less sense.

In an article reported here by the BBC, the Hungarian parliament overwhelmingly passed this new law that makes it a criminal offence to be caught sleeping in the streets. There’s no mention if other public sleeping is now illegal. I’ve seen people here in Vancouver fall asleep on the bus. What about a warm day in the park or on the beach? Do you need to carry around your deed to your house to avoid getting punished by this law?

If you’re caught sleeping on the street, you receive a warning first, further rule-breaking will net you a fine ($600 [£384]) or prison.

This might seem like a dumb question. But where would a homeless person get $600? This reminds me of a real stupid law that Vancouver had a decade or so ago (I think its gone now) where if you were caught washing car windows for change, you could be fined large sums of money. This is one of those catch-22 laws that lead the victim into an endless cycle of “I need the money for X so I need to do Y, but Y is illegal and I get a fine, so I need to get money for the fine so I do Y” and so on and so on.

Budapest, capital of Hungary, is said to have a homeless population of 10,000 people. So what exactly does this law do to reduce that number? Well, obviously it doesn’t. It just moves these people to a different area, prison. Rather than finding ways to help these people, they’ll just be sent to prison, out of sight, out of mind.

This is also another example of irrational thinking when it comes to making laws. Instead of trying to address the problem of homelessness, they make a law that hurts homeless people. Of course the reason they didn’t make a law outlawing homelessness is because such a law puts the burden of applying it on the government and community, instead they have a law here that puts the burden of blame on the homeless people. Instead of having a law that cast the shadow of “we failed to account for the safety and security of our citizens” on the community and country, they have created one which puts the homeless person at fault; “its their fault they don’t have a home, if only they worked harder”



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