In 2019, the Menhely Foundation was granted by the International Visegrad Fund on the topic of awareness rising activities of local organizations in relation to homelessness. During the project we can exchange experiences with three international partners. In the project we cooperate with organizations based in Gdańsk, Bratislava and Prague. Our basic goal is to get to know each other’s programs, the stakeholders involved in them, and to get new ideas from each other.
Our team consists members of the Roofless street paper and the creators of its art program, as well as the speakers of the First Hand Information on Homelessness project (FHIH), which both are closely linked to the Menhely Foundation.
Our first meeting with our partners was in early November in Budapest. Our Polish guests were from Towarzystwo Pomocy im,sw. Brata Alberta, a homeless care organization in Gdansk. We were honored to see the organization’s CEO himself, the director and a street worker – the only woman among the delegates – who visits police vocational school to give introductory lectures on homelessness. (Wow, that’s amazing! We have been planning to get into police training schools for two years now with our FHIH project). They also said that since there are enough places for homeless people in Gdansk it is recommended that individuals of the society don’t support those in need with money or donations, but with providing information on how to get to the homeless shelters.
The delegation from Bratislava consisted three members of a homeless theater, the Divadlo Bez Domova. The art director, the deputy director and an actor – who also speaks Hungarian and was the only foreign homeless participant.
They have been organizing a homelessness -themed theatre festival, the Error Festival, for years. Next year we will perform there with the play: Addressless, together with the Stereo Akt theatre company.
The Czech Novy Prostor street paper was represented by two editors. This street paper is published in 15,000 copies each month in almost 20 Czech cities and is sold by about 120 vendors.
They were surprised that the price of the street paper is not fixed in Hungary, and its content is compiled from the works of homeless people.
What did we show to our guests? On the evening of the day of arrival, they could watch the Addressless performance at the Örkény Theatre with the help of an interpreter. In addition to two professional actors, this performance also features one of the Roofless street paper’s social workers and a homeless person.
On the second day, after introduction and discussion of the grant, we took a quick homelessness-themed city walk to the next venue, where we presented an interactive presentation of the First Hand Information on Homelessness program, which we mostly perform in schools.The evaluation revealed that although the professionals liked the presentation, they would have preferred to observe the reactions of the students involved. They said the performance was very impressive and they were worried of the presentation’s effects on the students.
On the third day, we invited our guests for a city walk tailored to the lives of homeless people. The participants really liked that Dodi – the guide- talked not only about his life and the homelessness, but also the history of the buildings. After this event we showed our guests the school version of the Living Library, which idea we had imported from Prague.
On the fourth day we took our visitors to the Roofless street paper’s office and showed them the editorial work, and how homeless people are involved in the work and their duties.
During the three days, volunteers of Roofless interpreted between Hungarian homeless people and guest professionals. Thank you for your help! Without them, we would not have known the information that we could integrate into our programs for our further development.
Our next study visit will take place in Prague, we promise we will report on it too!
József Ormodi (Dodi)