Park benches turn into beds

Slovak NGO wants to draw attention to the criminalisation of the homeless in Hungary.

(Source: Vladimír Šimíček)

As part of the public solidarity action organised by Bratislava’s non-governmental organisation Proti prúdu, the publisher of the Nota Bene street papers, several people slept on the public segmented benches in Šafárikovo Square in Bratislava using specially designed mattresses on November 7.

With this act, the organisation expressed its deep concerns about the criminalisation of homeless people in Hungary. At the same time, it wanted to call on Slovak politicians to prevent repression and to search for solidarity and a real solution to homelessness.

“In Slovakia we have noticed local politicians during their campaigns, declaring that homeless people should be expelled from city centres,” said Sandra Pazman Tordová, the organiser of this public solidarity campaign.

Some politicians have even promised their voters that they will push through measures similar to those in Hungary. Pazman Tordová does not believe that repression is a solution.

“We want to invite politicians to seek a real solution to homelessness,” she added, suggesting that building affordable housing would offer people a chance to end their homelessness.

“More affordable housing options for vulnerable low-income groups such as the elderly, the disabled and the homeless mean less people ending up on the streets and on the benches under our windows.”

The situation of the homeless is unpleasant

The inspiration for the benches came from an art piece entitled “Archisuit“ by the US artist Sarah Ross from the Los Angeles art community that commented on the hostile architecture of the city.

Read also:Bratislava officially has 2,000 homeless, estimated number is more than double

Homeless people in Slovakia have limited access to shelters. In Bratislava, there are only 250 beds in the 24-hour shelters. At least 2,064 homeless people live in Bratislava, as the first official count of the homeless showed but NGOs estimate there are at least 4,000 homeless people in the city.

Half of the homeless counted in Bratislava suffer this situation long-term and have been homeless for more than six years.

Fourteen Slovak NGOs working with the homeless have prepared a written Declaration to express solidarity with Hungarian homeless people, to prevent repression and encourage a search for a real solution to homelessness. The declaration has been signed by 577 people so far.

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