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Since its inception in 2010, the Streetlawyer Association provides free legal aid mostly by volunteer lawyers to people in need, primarily to homeless people, and people in bad or insecure housing focusing on the fields of social rights and housing.
We are fighting for a just and inclusive society, for a society where human rights, especially social rights are respected, where everyone’s opportunity for participation in social and political affairs is guaranteed, and access to adequate housing is secured for all by law and in practice.
Currently 22 lawyers and 3 activists with other background work together so that everyone has the chance to have proper housing, no one is discriminated or criminalized just because of being homeless or poor, no one misses out on legal aid because they do not have money for a lawyer, and the state and municipalities adhere to their obligations to citizens and residents by respecting human rights and dignity.
The volunteers’ work is coordinated by two part-time managing directors, who are supported by three legal coordinators, two project managers and a project assistant, a communication, and a fundraising specialist. Apart from the two managing directors and a project manager who work 20 hours per week, other staff works 10 hours per week.
We are the only organization working for the rights of poor people in Hungary.
We give legal support in around 2000 cases, requests per year.
25 of our volunteers work altogether appr. 6422 hours per year.
For 11 years we have been providing free legal aid at the Blaha square each Friday.
For 11 years since SLA’s founding, we provided free low-threshold legal aid every Friday for 2 hours on a public square in Budapest. In addition to legal aid, our volunteer lawyers write submissions and requests, and if needed, represent the client at court. We are not acting instead of our clients, but in cooperation with them, trying to enhance their legal awareness and capabilities in the process. All cases matter equally to SLA, but we also take on strategic cases to achieve systemic change on the policy or legal level. During the pandemic we switched to “remote legal aid” by operating daily email (with 4 volunteer lawyers in weekly shifts) and twice a week phone legal aid service.
2 volunteer lawyers (in weekly shifts) cooperate with housing rights activists of The City is for All to provide legal support to prevent or stop evictions.
Our professional legal team takes cases in domestic and international courts that can have effect on legislations, policies, or institutional practice and lead to systemic change.
We request public interest data in the fields of housing and social rights to compel the state and municipalities to operate in a transparent and accountable manner and to support our own advocacy and legal work.
We are reviewing and commenting on draft or new laws, decrees, or amendments, and make recommendations for systemic change to enforce more just, equitable housing and social regulations and practice, and one that respects human dignity.
we prepare and disseminate easy-to-understand guides and videos on laws and their adequate implementation. We also hold capacity-building sessions, workshops, and training activities to various target groups from inhabitants of child-care facilities to law firms.
|Housing and social rights |
Our goal is to achieve just and equitable laws and their implementation focusing on housing, social rights, regulations on housing by the state and municipalities, access to social support, and registration of addresses.
➤ In our earlier “Punishing Municipalities” project we reviewed the decrees of all of the Budapest district municipalities on rental housing, social support and the ones regulating community life. Through this we exposed how municipalities criminalize certain behaviors, make access to social support unnecessarily or discriminatively difficult, which can have further negative impact on the social and housing situation. Beyond the criticisms, we designed an alternative model decree, in which we formulated the regulations of the imaginary “Free city” on community life in a way that allows the local community to live together based on equality, justice, inclusion and transparency. We distributed the review of the existing municipal decrees and the model decree to several local municipalities.
➤ The goal of our current “TranspaRent” project is to make municipal social housing systems more transparent and just, where possible in cooperation with the municipalities. Currently the SLA has cooperation agreements with eight districts in Budapest and one also with the Municipality of Budapest. Nonetheless, we examine and analyze the housing decrees and the application mechanisms for social rentals of all Budapest municipalities and request public data from them.
➤ We assessed and commented on the decrees, and decree amendments of the Municipality of Budapest, the 13th district, and the new housing concept of the 15th district. We also take part in the drafting process of other municipal housing concepts and decrees.
➤ In cooperation with the tenants, we took steps against the municipality of Ócsa, which in our assessment modified its decree and raised the rent in the housing estate where mostly aggrieved parties of foreign bank loans live in an unlawful manner. After the local government office did not agree with our objection, we turned to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights, requesting him to turn to the Curia of Hungary (Supreme Court) asking for annulation of the decree unlawfully raising the rent and to review the local government’s office conduct in relation to this matter.
➤ We follow developments and make recommendations in relation to social support, among others by drawing attention to the too low amount of the support for active age people that has been unchanged since 2008, and to the unlawful withdrawals of support. We objected to the unjustified restrictions introduced in the public labor system.
|Actual legal equality|
Our goal is to achieve the actual legal equality of all, especially that of homeless people and people living in bad and insecure housing, stepping up against their discrimination, criminalization, and for more just regulations on misdemeanors, the pandemic situation, and judicial enforcement, and their fair and lawful implementation.
➤ Since its introduction, the SLA informs about and protests against the laws criminalizing habitual use of public spaces. In the months following the criminalization took effect, the SLA provided a 24-hours phone hotline for victims of the criminalization and disseminated an expert legal material for attorneys who took on such cases. Additionally, we sought out and assisted individuals who fell victim to the criminalization, representing them at court in many cases. We convinced the court to turn to the Constitutional Court requesting the law’s review.
➤ We launched a project for a more just and fair judicial enforcement procedure, aiming to achieve change of those regulations on judicial enforcement and their implementation that disadvantage people in bad economic situations, and to ensure that texts in relation to the judicial enforcement procedure are easier to understand. Among others we wrote a public interest data inquiry to the Ministry of Justice to clarify how judicial enforcers operate during the ‘state of danger’ due to the pandemic. We also made a submission to the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights highlighting the issue of the amendment of the law on judicial enforcement.
➤ We stood up against institutional violence inflicted on poor people, especially homeless people. We requested the Commissioner for Fundamental Rights to investigate how it could be possible for police in Mohács (a small town in the South of Hungary) to frequently assault homeless people over a long period of time with impunity. In the ongoing criminal procedure, we also give legal representation to the homeless person who was beaten by the police.
➤ We wrote an opinion about the amendment of the Code on Civil Procedure and addressed a letter to the National Office for the Judiciary calling on them to adequately provide information to parties without legal representatives during the pandemic when the access to court houses, case files and legal aid are restricted.
➤ The SLA is representing activists at court who are charged with vandalism for raising public awareness with pavement painting about the lack of free public toilets in Budapest while urinating in public is penalized.
|Homeless people and people in poverty enforce their rights |
Our goal is to enhance the legal awareness, legal empowerment and the ability of homeless people and people living in bad or insecure housing to represent their own interests. We create and disseminate information materials and videos making laws and their practice easy to understand, and hold capacity-building and training events.
➤ We have created and published informative and explanatory materials in relation to rental housing (both from the perspective of the tenants and lessors), and the registration of addresses.
➤ We have written a summary on the utility support offered by the Budapest Municipality and how to request it.
➤ Reacting fast to the swiftly changing and often complicated amended and new regulations during the pandemic, we helped to understand the changed situation in rental housing, regarding the validity of rental contracts, the laws on judicial enforcement, and in labor regulations.
➤ The Municipality of Budapest partially accepted SLA’s recommendations when amending its decree on public housing. Among others they introduced procedural guarantees favoring tenants, a discriminative provision was removed from the decree, and they made it possible for domestic abuse to be taken into account when deciding about rental housing distributed based on equity.
➤ We got the Constitutional Court in 2020 to state that children cannot be criminalized for prostitution, and to oblige the Government to amend the law on misdemeanors, including by securing the adequate possibility to appeal in certain cases.
➤ In one of our clients’ cases the Curia of Hungary (Supreme Court) ruled that the police cannot apply handcuffs if the person investigated is cooperating with the police.
➤ After three years of litigation the SLA won a case in which the Curia of Hungary obliged the Government Office of Budapest to pay a grievance award, because it had unlawfully excluded our client from the social support for active aged people, and to apologize in writing for violating her personality rights. When the Government Office failed to act on time, we lodged a judicial enforcement procedure against it.
➤ We represented several clients at court, helping them to get back the unlawfully withdrawn or not granted social support. In one case, we convinced the court to order a new public administrative procedure, in another, to find that the government office unlawfully rejected our client’s request for equity. We are fighting for our clients’ access to social support in many other cases.
➤ We managed to prevent, or in some cases to stop evictions by intervening in judicial enforcement procedures.
➤ Our submission convinced the police to withdraw a 25 thousand forints fine imposed on a homeless man for violating the pandemic-related curfew, as they acknowledged that the man had in fact nowhere to go during that time.
➤ We represented The City is for All activist group in the cases, when the court obliged the National Police to give access to the data on death caused by hypothermia, and the municipality of the 5th district of Budapest to release data on public housing.
➤ To provide easy access to free and effective legal aid to people living in poverty, especially to homeless people and people living in bad and insecure housing.
➤ To pressure state bodies and municipalities to ensure humane treatment to all people, including by providing adequate housing opportunities and social support.
➤ To make sure the state does not criminalize homeless people, rather takes steps to eliminate homelessness.
➤ To alleviate housing debt and housing insecurities.
➤ To prevent and in some cases stop unjust and unlawful evictions.
➤ To inform and legally empower people regarding housing, social support, and the operation of municipalities.
➤ To ensure that people in housing poverty actively take part in the struggle for housing and social rights, like the non-lawyer activists of SLA without whom our public square legal aid would not be possible.
Our introductory publication is available in pdf format here.
If you support our cause, you can donate here. Thank you!