hungary by xiaohuicaicai


									                Prevention of homelessness in Hungary

Prepared for FEANTSA

in the cooperation of HAJSZOLT, Hungarian Salvation Army, Shelter
Foundation, Diótörés Foundation, Debrecen Refugee Camp, Debrecen
Probation Office, Debrecen Family Support Service

Writte n by Péter Bakos
4 July 2004
     1. What do governments – local, regional or national – understand in
        terms of prevention of homelessness?

It is commonly agreed that very few measures aiming at the prevention of
homelessness have been taken in the last decade in Hungary. The reasons are
quite obvious:
After the transition the formerly hidden homelessness turned to be a real
problem with a great number of people in the streets. The phenomenon
demanded prompt measures. The institution system of homeless provision was
set up during the following years, and the same structure has been existing ever
since. The gap between the number of people in the streets and the available
capacity of the institution of homeless care as well as the lack of social housing
resulted in keeping the same issues on the agenda: tackling the current

There are very limited number of studies on the prevention of homelessness,
thus we can not talk about harmonized prevention strategies which take into
account the main causes of homelessness or the particular stages of pathways
into homelessness.

The prevention of homelessness requires the discovery of pathways into
homelessness, which leads us to various issues from indebtedness to the issue of
leaving institutional care. When analyzing the main causes we can distinguish
two main categories. These are psychosocial causes and structural causes.

Amongst the psychosocial causes, relationship breakdown and disorders in
personality development are determinant while the most significant structural
causes of becoming homeless are the abolishment of various institutional
housing facilities, the increase of flat maintenance expenditures and the lack of
supported housing and worker’s hostels capacities.

The findings of the following survey conducted in 1994 shows the distribution of
the abolishment of various institutional housing facilities. This group of causes
represents 35,4% of the causes:

-   leaving   workers’ hostel              9,7%
-   leaving   state care                   7,0%
-   leaving   prison                       5,9%
-   leaving   hospital (somatic illness)   4,2%
-   leaving   hospital (mental illness)    4,0%
-   leaving   residential home             1,5%
-   leaving   flat paid by employer        3,1%

Some of the above mentioned (those leaving prison, hospital and residential
home) had been homeless previously.

As for tackling family or relationship breakdown Family Support Services provide
help in preventing families from falling apart. This kind of service is available for
free in every Hungarian settlement. Their work can be considered as general
prevention. In the framework of complex family care they aim to maintain and
support the cohesion of families as well as to set to rights the missing or ruined

function of the families. It requires the development and maintenance of a
continuous helping connection in order that the family in need become able to
solve its problems. Providing psychological and legal counselling for families and
individuals also has preventive features. The importance of the Family Support
Service was emphasized by some social workers having daily contact with the
homeless. Interviews showed that more than 50% of their clients marked family
breakdown and divorce as the main cause of their becoming homeless. Thus
strengthening the cohesion of families can play a very important role in
preventing homelessness. But if we go into details of the causes of family
breakdowns we might easily come to such issues like poverty, unemployment
and the lack of qualifications, etc.

Besides the Family Support Service the government established the Government
Office of Equal Opportunities on 1 January 2004. The Government Office
    a. reveals and identifies the main causes of social exclusion as well as the
       population affected;
    b. initiates the creation of legislation necessary for strengthening social
       inclusion as well as participates in the development and implementation of
       the relevant measures;
    c. promotes social solidarity by its activity;
    d. promotes the reduction of exclusion;
    e. develops programmes, measures in order to reduce conflicts coming from
       various causes like social situation, health condition, financial state, etc.
    f. announces calls for proposals targeting equal opportunities.

The Government Office established the National Network of Equal Opportunities
throughout Hungary, in the framework of which the so called “Houses of
Chances” were established in each county.

Generally speaking there are very limited direct strategies aiming at preventing
homelessness. The most direct impact has the debt management service. The
law on debt management came into force on 1 January 2003. This is a very
“spectacular” measure since it targets the stage right before losing one’s home,
after which families may fall apart and people become homeless.

   2. Existing strategies, policies and legislation.

In 2002 the Parliament adopted a resolution on preventing families from
becoming homeless. In the framework of this resolution
1. the Parliament calls upon the Government to enquire:
          a. what scope of families are threatened by becoming homeless;
          b. in what way and extent can the legislation in force and the local
             governments as well as the network of NGO-run institutions
             contribute to prevent families from becoming homeless;
          c. what extent of direct or indirect expenditures does it result for the
             government, the municipalities and other organizations if a family
             becomes homeless

          d. the law in practice by involving the affected state- and municipality
             bodies and other organizations, with special focus on the
             enforcement of children rights in case of families become homeless.
          e. The practice followed by EU Member States concerning owner’s
             rights, social rights and the enforcement of regulations ensuring the
             protection of families and children.
   2. The Parliament calls upon the Government to inform the Parliament on the
      findings of the inquiry.
   3. The Government should make motions to modify the regulations - or to
      create new legislation if it is justified – which:
          a. ensure access to low rent social housings for the families not able to
             buy or build a house of their own.
          b. promote to prevent families from becoming homeless
          c. guarantee the enforcement of social rights for families threatened
             by homelessness


Indebtedness is definitely one of the direct causes of evictions, thus tackling the
problem of indebtedness has direct preventive feature. According to experts’
estimations there are about 500.000 households having arrears older than half a
year. In January 2003 a law came into force on debt management. Previously
similar programmes were run by some major cities’ local government, like
Budapest, Szombathely and Nyíregyháza. (For the detailed description of this
service see the attached “Good examples”.

Strengthening this service the flat maintenance support was made normative for
those meeting the criteria written by the law. This support is regularly granted by
the local governments. The person is entitled for normative flat maintenance
support, if the household’s monthly income per capita doesn’t exceed 150% of
the minimum old-pension, provided that the acknowledged monthly costs of flat
maintenance exceeds 25% of the household’s total monthly income. The law also
regulates the acknowledged flat size:
   a. if one person lives in 35 m2
   b. if two persons in one household live in 45 m2
   c. if three persons live in one household in 55 m2
   d. if four persons live in one household in 65 m2
   e. if more than four persons live in one household in the size of flat marked
       in d. and 5 -5 m2 for each additional persons

This measure certainly means development however it must be added that in
Hungary only 2-3‰ of the GDP is spent on housing subsidies, while the same
indicator in the EU-15 is 1%.

In May 2004 the Government made a decision on launching a program which
aims to reduce the extent of the population’s indebtedness. The pro gram targets
a special segment of the housing targeted bank loans as well as public utility
arrears. A survey conducted prior to the government’s decision turned out that
almost 100.000 families are affected by judicial proceedings because of unsettled
arrears. The total amount of housing connected arrears amounts to 36 milliard
HUF. There are two main types of arrears: the pay-off housing targeted bank
loans and the payment of public utility bills.

                          Estimated number
Year   Amount of debt                        Expendit ure
                                                                   Those      whose      housing
                            of fa milies affected                  targeted      bank      loans
                                                                   originated     before      31
2005 Less tha n 100.000 HUF 10 000                1 milliard HUF   December       1988       can
                                                                   participate   in    a    debt
2006 100-200 000 HUF        6 500                 1,6 milliard HUF
                                                                   consolidating    programme.
                                                                   This programme will be
                                                                   launched from 2005 in a 3-
2007 More t han 200 000 HUF 4 500                 3,2 milliard HUF
                                                                   year period with about 5,8
                                                                   milliard HUF and affects
more than 20.000 families. The details of the programme are being developed.
The programme targets those unable to pay-off their loans any longer because of
their social situation and because the dwelling they own doesn’t cover their debt.
Their pay-off obligation will be deferred until their social situation has changed in
a significant positive way.

As for public utility arrears further changes are on the horizon by extending the
entitlement of the existing debt management service. Furthermore the
government tends to take measures to prevent the accumulation of future
arrears. To this end the government has made a decisio n on setting up an
indicative system, in the framework of which the public utility providers will be
obligated to inform the organization commissioned with debt management about
the consumers having accumulated arrears older than 3 months.


According to the current legal regulations those can get a residence permit who
can prove adequate housing or living conditions. These are quite strict and
difficult to satisfy therefore those who can meet these criteria have good chances
to avoid homelessness.
As for asylum seekers they are entitled to be accommodated in the Refugee
Camp and also to receive health care during the asylum procedure. In the past
this procedure could last years but recently the Asylum Act has shortened it
remaining the above eligibilities unchanged. In case an asylum seeker becomes
an acknowledged refugee, he or she will have the same rights and obligations
like Hungarian citizens, except for the right to vote and military service.
Furthermore they don’t need additional work permit, they become entitled to
receive bank loans and family allowance as well as they may be entitled to social
benefit from the local government.

After this procedure they are entitled to live in the Refugee Camp for 2 x 6
months then they must leave. On the basis of the Asylum Act they can receive
one-shot moving-on benefit, as well as subtenancy support and rent support for
which they have to apply at the local government, but the Migration Office shall
reimburse it to the local government afterwards.

In Debrecen the acknowledged refugees can receive a kind of extra service
during the 2 x 6 months. They can live in a half-way housing, which includes 1,5-
room separate flats. There are 21 such 45 square-metre apartments. The clients

don’t have to pay for the rent or any other contributions. During this period they
can get a job so they can save up a little amount for their moving on, and they
can acquire and experience independency and responsibility. Despite the above
mentioned, starting a completely independent life in a relatively unfamiliar
environment – in case of proper command of the given native language - is
extremely difficult. That’s the reason why these people are threatened by
homelessness. Unfortunately there isn’t developed integration policy concerning
refugees in Hungary, naturally it is because of the lack of resources. The Refugee
Camp proposed the local government to ensure access to social housings and
emergency housing- especially in crisis situation – for the refugees.


People leaving prison are one of the vulnerable groups threatened by becoming
homeless either because they had been homeless before or because they lose
their former home due to family or relationship breakdown. Besides the work of
the Probation Office presented below, the prison itself promotes the social
reintegration of their clients by organizing vocational trainings as well as job-
seeking trainings for the prisoners.

The cooperation of church and charity organizations provides great help to
prepare the clients for their release.

In order to prevent those leaving prison from becoming homeless Probation
Offices were established on 1 July 2003, which provide the advocacy of ex-
offenders. It has a kind of intermediate part between the ex-offender and the
society. In some aspects their work has some preventive features:
- Getting in contact with the family of the young offender in order to find out the
main reasons and circumstances having led to the crime committed.
- providing help in finding a job and continuing or finishing studies
According to the directions of further development the Probation Offices tend to
provide half-was housing as well as job opportunities for their clients.

Drug addicts, alcohol addicts

This problem is dealt with in the framework of health care with the same
approach. Therefore there is very limited emphasis put on social featured
problems like tackling the issue of employment, education and housing (or the
lack of housing). Furthermore the issue of the use of solvents means particular
problem. Health care doesn’t undertake to deal with solvent addicts thus this
problem is not solved even in basic level either. Solvents are usually used
amongst poor young people who are disadvantageous in many other aspects as
well. Furthermore it often happens to the young in state care, which makes their
chance to avoid homelessness almost impossible.
The solution requires the harmonization of the issue of housing, social affairs,
employment, education and health care.

There aren’t exact figures in Hungary on how many people become homeless in a
year. According to the findings of a survey conducted every year on 3 rd February
by Shelter Foundation in Budapest every 6th of the interviewed persons had a

place to live in the one-year period prior to the survey. Thus every 6 th clients can
be considered as “new entries”.
The debt management service mentioned above is relatively new. Unfortunately
not all household in need are entitled to receive the service.
As for the issue of drug and alcohol addicts (as well as in the whole health care)
prevention is a missing element.

   4. What role do NGOs play in prevention?

NGOs can play an important role in prevention by identifying the need of the
local population. NGOs can adapt themselves to the changing needs in a more
flexible way than the institutional structure. In Budapest an NGO (Sziszifusz
Szociális Alapítvány) runs programmes to help those having housing problems. It
provides free flat exchange programmes in Budapest, information on housing-
targeted subsidies, legal counselling on housing issues with preventive feature,
dissemination of their work.
Another NGO working with the homeless (Shelter Foundation) was called upon by
a local secondary school to present their work for the pupils. The first lesson had
such a great success that it followed several others then a book was published on
the basis of the questions the pupils were interested in. Actions like this can
contribute to promoting social solidarity. It is also an example of the ability of
quick response to an emerging need.

In Debrecen a new association called Street Line started its work with young
drug users and tries to prevent them from becoming homeless by referring them
to the appropriate institution. The presentation of their work in schools also has
direct impact on drug prevention. This NGO was established by people working
with the homeless after they had realized that dealing with the young drug users
is a lack in street work.
Networking between NGOs is much stro nger than between NGOs and institutions.
Informal meetings and gatherings are very important in this process. The
problem is the issue of funding. On the one hand the various and colourful
services of NGOs mean advantage but on the other hand their funding is quite
insecure. NGOs providing state responsibilities can get normative support (which
is far not sufficient, but at least regular) but NGOs established to provide
previously not existing and innovative services face insecure funding.

   1. Good Examples

     Country                                            Hungary

     Name of           Complex reintegration programme of the young leaving state care run
   programme,          by the state standards of daytime and accommodation services
 project, policy,
 legislation, etc.

  Location if not      Budapest

 Started: (date)       1995

    Overview of        Complex 5-stage programme. Services are tailored to the life
method/programme,      situation of the young
       etc.                      Low threshold self help group for those living in the streets
                                 Daytime social service, social workers, pedagogues,
                                  psychologists, lawyers, etc.
                                 Ensuring the proper educational level to improve employability
                                 Services providing accommodation: “Dióhéj”(nutshell) and
                                  “Diófa” (walnut-tree) rehabilitation and half-way houses
                                 Supported, independent housing besides services provided by
                                  social worker
Aims and objectives    These young as well as their former families have never lived “civil
– how does it aim to   life”, therefore in their case there are no behaviour models to
      prevent          rehabilitate, and thus the goal is habilitation.
   homelessness         The goal for those able to work are the acquirement and
                          improvement of skills necessary for getting a job with the continuous
                          support of the social worker
                        Those unable to live independently are referred to the institution fits
                          for his or her condition
                        For those able to sustain themselves, accommodation and protected
                          work are provided in our own or fellow-institutions

      Inputs:             Agencies and        We are the only one in the country to
                          partnerships        provide this service. Partnership has been
                                              developing with the participation of many
                                              NGOs and state organizations according to
                                              the demands of the service users.
                            Areas of          Our homes run with state permit provide
                          responsibility      services nation-wide by contracts. These
                                              responsibilities are voluntarily taken up
                                              though all are state responsibilities, but our
                                              clients are crowded out of services provided
                                              by the state.
                        Target groups and     The young leaving state care, are over-
                            numbers (if       represented in the homeless population. The
                        relevant/available)   estimated number of homeless persons is
                              Funding         The normative support covers 40-50% of
                                              the total expenditures, the rest is funded by

   How is it
 implemented?        Diótörés Foundation has been operating a home in the district XIII in
                     Budapest providing pre-release services according to the 1997 law on
Who is involved in   child protection as well as a rehabilitation home in Somogy. The
implementation?      Foundation ensures complex social rehabilitation of the target group on
                     the basis of daytime childcare services and rehabilitation-employment
                     The services of the Foundation are unique in several aspects:
                     There aren’t such services run by NGOs anyw here else, because
                     exceptionally high standards must continuously be ensured, besides
                     low normative support not covering even partial costs.
                     All young leaving state care are entitled for state guaranteed services,
                     however it is not compulsory. Therefore the young don’t tend to choose
                     pre-release services of their former institution and the former
                     institution tries to get rid of the “hard cases”, thus the young usually
                     become homeless.
                     The statute of the Foundation defines the services of the yo ung who
                     left state care and became homeless. They usually don’t or can’t use
                     the services provided by the state just because of their being homeless
                     and nonconformist.
                     According to our experiences rehabilitation work w ill be successful in
                     that case if the young – w ho may not have worked in their lifetime yet
                     – find their place in the labour market and become self-sustaining from
                     dependency. These young people have such diffic ulties with social
                     integration that they need continuous contact with some help providing
                     organization, or else they regress. Due to our support they can get and
                     maintain a job, continue their studies, save up in our residential
                     institutions, start a family and their children won’t be in state care, but
                     will be brought up by them.
                     We have proved for years that our programme is not only cheap (they
                     become self-sustaining from dependency) but humane as well.

     Outputs               Monitoring and
                             evaluation          Continuous internal monitoring is
                                                 provided and we tend to initiate
                                                 quality insurance as well.

                           Problem areas         - Low level of support from the part
                                                 of the society,
                                                 - opposite vocational interests,
                                                 - weak vindication of interests,
                                                 disappointing,low funding

                           Dissemination         - our work was presented in the
                                                 - in brochures
                                                 - press releases

     Name of           Debt Management Service
 project, policy,
 legislation, etc.

  Location if not

 Started: (date)                                    1 January 2003

    Overview of
method/programme,      The above mentioned legislation provides a f ramework and lets the
       etc.            local governments some freedom concerning the implementation of this
                       law. (For instance each local government can decide on which type of
                       debts they want to involve in the debt management service.)
                       There are four stakeholders in this story with four different interests.
                       The government and the loca l government have to find a balance in
                       their decision making between “punishing” those unable to pay and
                       providing help to the needy.

                       Additionally the local governments also own (partially) certain local
                       public utility companies. Public utility companies are interested in
                       reducing their asset and increase their returns. They can not increase
                       their prices because it may result more non-payer consumers, which
                       would increase their assets. The only way for them is to be interested
                       in giving preferences for those in debt making them able to pay back
                       their dues. The households are interested in maintaining their housing
                       as well as the services essential for a life in comfort.

                       The first attempts to arrange the problem were made by some major
                       cities (Budapest, Szombathely, Nyíregyháza) then in 2003 the legal
                       regulation of debt management service came into force. It provides a
                       legal framew ork and certain elements are regulated by the local
                       governments’ regulations.

                       The following debts can be managed in the framework of this service:

                          -   public utility arrears (gas, current, heat, water, etc.)
                          -   joint liability arrears of block of flats
                          -   rent arrears
                          -   arrears coming from housing targeted bank loan

                       As for the latter, negotiations still have been going on w ith the National
                       Savings Bank on how to extent the service for their debtors.
Aims and objectives    This service aims to help the families having debt in connection with
– how does it aim to   housing expenditures who are able and willing to partially sett le their
      prevent          arrears. This pa rtial ability of paying is complemented by the support.
   homelessness        The aim is to set back and stabilize this ability and prevent the family
                       from being evicted.
      Inputs:              Agencies and        -Local government
                           partnerships        -Family Support Service
                                               -Loaners (Gas supplier, elect ricity supplier,

  Areas of       Local government
responsibility   The local government shall enact a
                 regulation which includes the specified
                 regulations of the debt management service.
                     -  the size and quality of the dwellings
                        which is acknow ledged in the given
                     -  the maximum amount of the arrears
                        that can be dealt with
                     -  the amount of the debt reduction
                     -  eligibility criteria concerning the debt
                        management service
                     -  the way of participation in the service

                 The local government must run debt
                 counselling besides providing financial

                 The conditions of running debt counselling
                     - The local government can ensure the
                       debt counselling by its own institution
                       or by another body
                     - The condition of running this service
                       is to employ persons graduated from
                       a debt counselling course
                     - Without employing such person the
                       service can run for the maximum of
                       one year on the condition that the
                       person has already started the course
                       in the meantime

                 Family Support Service
                 The debt counsellor’s duties:
                 In the framework of debt counselling the
                    -   inform the debtor on the possibilities
                        and conditions of debt management,
                    -   studies the debtor’s housekeeping,
                        capacity and cooperation for payment
                        (with the sanction of the debtor.) On
                        the basis of this information the
                        counsellor makes a suggestion of
                        getting the debtor involved into the
                    -   together with the debtor they make
                        an agreement on the conditions of
                        paying-off the debt
                    -   during the period of the debt
                        management the counsellor keeps in
                        touch with the debtor and at least
                        once in each month meets the debtor
                        in person to follow the observation

                             included in the agreement .

                      The debtor’s responsibilities

                      During the period of the debt management
                      service the debtor collaborates with the
                      The debtor must
                          -  agree that his data and information
                             on his debt are recorded
                          -  participate   in   draw ing   up  the
                             agreement on debt management
                          -  meet the debt counsellor in person at
                             least once in each month and inform
                             the      counsellor      about    the
                             implementation of the agreement

                         The person receiving debt reduction
                         support makes a contract with the loaner
                         (e.g. gas supplier, current supplier, etc.)
                         on repaying the arrears.


                         Depending on the loaners the debtor can
                         obtain further preferences, for instance
                         part-payment, remission of interests.

Target groups and     The law regulates the scope of households
    numbers (if       eligible for receiving the debt management
relevant/available)   service:

                         -   a household the debts of which
                             exceed 50.000 HUF (~200 EUR) and
                         -   one of its outstanding arrears is older
                             than 6 months
                         -   and the 6- month debt had originated
                             during the period of 18 months
                             before submitting the application
                         -   in the household of whom the
                             monthly income per capita doesn’t
                             exceed the amount determined by
                             the local government’s regulation
                         -   who lives in a dwelling not bigger and
                             of better quality than the minimum
                             size     and      quality     standard
                             acknowledged in the given settlement
                         -   who undertakes paying the residual
                             of the debt and the debt reduction
                             support    assessed by the local
                         -   undertakes participation in debt
                             management counselling

Funding   The rate and period of the debt reduction

             -   the rate of the debt reduction support
                 can not exceed 75% of the arrears
             -   the amount of the debt reduction
                 support can be the maximu m of
                 200 000 HUF (~800 EUR)
             -   the support can be granted in one
                 sum, or in monthly part-payments
             -   the period of debt management is the
                 maximum of 18 months, which once
                 (if necessary) can be extended with 6
             -   the debt reduction support must be
                 granted by discharging the debtors’
             -   the debtor doesn’t have to repay the
                 debt reduction support
          During the debt management process the
          settlement of arrears threatening eviction
          must have priority. In parallel with the debt
          management period (but at least for one
          year) the local government must grant flat
          maintenance support for persons receiving
          the service.

          According to the law, 90% of the debt
          reduction   support  granted   by    local
          governments shall be reimbursed f rom the
          central Budget.

          Here is one particula r case with a household
          having 240 000 HUF rent and public utility
          arrears.      All the      above    mentioned
          requirements are met. In this case 75% of
          the household’s debt is taken over. The self-
          contribution is 60.000 HUF for the two-year
          period. The household enters into a contract
          with the loaners in the framework of which
          the debt will be repaid in 24 months. During
          this period the local government grants flat
          maintenance support (besides taking over
          75% of the debt as a debt reduction

          During the 24- month period

          The client’s expense:60 000 HUF
          as well as settling the remaining amount of
          the monthly bills (f lat maintenance support
          granted    continuously     by    the   local
          government is discharged the client’s
          account in each month)

          The local government’s expense: (10%)

                                           18 000 HUF debt reduction support
                                           24 000 HUF flat maintenance support
                                           as well as running the debt management

                                           The Budget’s expense: (90%)
                                           162 000 HUF debt reduction support
                                           216 000 HUF f lat maintenance support

                                          The loaner’s (suppliers) expense: agreeing
                                          on part-payment
   How is it         The procedure step by step
                        1. The debtor submits the application on debt management to the
Who is involved in         Social Depart ment of the local government by filling a form
implementation?         2. The Social Depart ment collects the applications and forward
                           them to the suppliers/loaners to get them verified (it aims at
                           getting information on the exact amount of the arrears)
                        3. Determination of the amount of the debt reduction support (or
                           the preparation of dismissal if the debtor doesn’t fit the service)
                           on the basis of the available data (the amount of the debt, the
                           number of months’ in debt, net income per capita, size of the
                        4. Decision of the Social Committee (dismissal or favourable
                           decision) + determination of the amount of the flat maintenance
                        5. Making agreements with the suppliers/loaners
                        6. Forwarding the agreements to the Family Support Service and
                           to the Social Depart ment
                        7. The Family Support Service registers the debtor on the basis of
                           the decisions sent by the Social Depart ment, and gives
                           comprehensive information on the way of debt counselling,
                           makes an agreement on the conditions of settling the debt.
                        8. The counsellor meets the debtor at least once in each month
                           and notify the Social Depart ment on any change concerning the
                           debtor’s capacity and willingness for payment

     Outputs              Monitoring and

                          Problem areas             -   not all household in need are
                                                        aware of this service
                                                    -   not all in need are entitled to
                                                        receive it either because of
                                                        the extent of the debt or the
                                                        type of it
                          Dissemination         - the programme was presented in
                                                local media
                                                - the consumers in arrears were
                                                informed in a letter by the loaners
                                                (public utility companies)


To top