Illegal Streets

Artist Blog by Ilir Tsouko

In hardly any other Eastern European capital there are so many homeless people as in Budapest. But instead of helping them with more social laws, the government is criminalizing the already weak. Since October 2018, a new constitutional law has prohibited ‘living in public spaces’. This includes, for example, when homeless people sit or lie down somewhere with their widespread belongings. Anyone who fails to comply with the police's requests to leave the place three times within three months, risks being arrested and even sentenced to prison. I have visited Budapest to see the situation with my own eyes. I met people who could have been my friends, my neighbors, my family. They were wearing clean jackets and shoes, some had well-groomed hair and watchful eyes. I set up my studio, a black background, one spotlight, and my camera. I wanted to give them a stage. To make them feel that they are important for what they are. I bought coffee and cigarettes and I put a small table in front of a chair where I invited them to sit and talk to me. Leaving the shelter, I understood that the clean clothes are camouflage. Not to be recognized as homeless. But is homelessness a crime?

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