Homeless man wins lottery, donates to charity in Hungary

Nadine Kalinauskas
Good News
Fears for plight of Hungary's homeless over law banning sleeping rough

There is alarm among homeless people in Hungary over a new law passed this week that critics say criminalises sleeping rough in some areas.

From next week offenders can be fined and even sent to prison.

The law gives local authorities the power to define zones where sleeping outdoors will be forbidden, and to destroy makeshift shelters.

Zoltan, a homeless man in Budapest said: “They (the government) just want to divert society’s attention from robberies and corruption, and instead go after the homeless.”

A similar law was struck down last year by a Hungarian court for being unconstitutional.

So in March this year the right-wing government used its two-thirds majority to change the constitution.

It argues there are plenty of shelters available and that the revived law is a humanitarian measure which is in homeless people’s own interests.

“We would like no homeless person to freeze to death on the streets of Hungary, therefore we created more than 700 places in (shelters in) Budapest, too,” said Karoly Kontrat, Interior Ministry State Secretary.

Hundreds protested against the law outside parliament on Monday.

The government strongly denies claims that there are not enough places in the capital’s shelters, leaving thousands outside.

One civic group accused the government of lying.

A few months ago, László Andraschek, an unemployed and homeless Hungarian man, bought a lottery ticket on his way to a workshop for recovering alcoholics.

The ticket cost him his last few coins.

"I had only picked six numbers and the female shop assistant reminded me that I needed to pick a seventh," he told the Guardian. "I told her to make it 24 — 'It doesn’t matter anyway.'"

He became a millionaire.

He used his 630-million Hungarian forint ($3 million Canadian) win to pay off his debts and buy apartments for himself and his wife and each of their three children, then vowed to use the a large portion of the rest to establish a foundation for addicts and victims of domestic abuse.

"I have become rich but I have not become a different person," he said. "I could buy a large-screen TV because I can afford it, but I won't buy three because I can afford it."

Now that he owns a passport for the first time, Andraschek also plans to take his wife to Italy on holiday.

Andraschek won the lottery in September. It wasn't until he made a large donation to a hostel for the homeless earlier this month that his story made headlines.

Andraschek quit drinking five years ago and "now has no need to return" to old habits.

Human rights activists are currently organizing worldwide protests against a new Hungarian law that bans "sleeping rough." It threatens individuals living on the streets in Hungary with fines or imprisonment. There is an estimated 30,000 homeless people living in the country.