Text: Xabier Rodríguez | Versión en español
I would like to recognise that when we published our blog, Nora Bagdi was a special person that I really wanted to interview. I could not waste the opportunity to interview a worker who is completely immersed in the Hungarian social work field. This sector has been living in a socialisT system until few years ago.
Nora is the manager of Menedékház, which is a homeless shelter in Budapest. One of the most important tasks of Menedékház is to try to reintegrate people without resources into the labour world. Our interviewee, Nora, plays a big part in this: she is developing several projects to try to achieve some goals that Menedékház has in order to help these people. And I have been a European Volunteer at this organisation for half a year and I definitely can confirm that.
It is wonderful to have the possibility of seeing the situation in a quite different country. That gives us the opportunity to check, to compare and to make some conclusions about it.
Xabier Rodríguez: What is Menedékház and what are its objectives?
Nora Bagdi: Menedékház Alapítvány (Shelter House Foundation) operates four institutes, two family homes and also a day shelter and a night one. We work with single people, couples and families who have lost their flats or houses. We offer them a place to sleep, and we support them with professional social work.
X.R.: So, as you are working with homeless people, I may ask you: What is the general profile of the homeless who dominate in Menedékház?
N.B.: In family homes we can find parents and their children who are under 18. Over 18’s cannot access to the service here by law, except if they are students. The night shelter is open to people over 18, both men and women. If couples come together, they cannot stay in the same room because there are separated rooms for men and women.
There are families who have had problems with banks, which is why they have had to leave their homes. Many of them could not pay their rent or find a job in their city so they left with the hope of finding a job here in Budapest.
In Hungary most of homeless men are the losers of communist system breakdown. In that system they could work as physical workers, or semi-skilled workers, or trained workers, and the factories or companies could offer them a hostel. After the political change, they lost their jobs and accommodation as well, so they had to sleep on the streets or night shelters. Most of the women here are divorced, but there are far more men here than women.
X.R.: What are the different ways of funding your organisation?
N.B.: Most of our income comes from the government. Besides, we have different innovative projects that can make some profit. Also, we apply with our projects, and many times, they are successful.
X.R.: What support and difficulties does Menedékház find in the development of their activities?
N.B.: One difficulty that we face is that the financial support we receive from the government is not sufficient for useful projects. It is only enough to maintain the institutes and pay the salaries of the social workers. We need to find a grant or a sponsor for the new, innovative ideas and projects that we have in mind. Moreover, the projects are not everlasting, so we can only plan for as long as the applications maker will allow.
Furthermore, the problem in Hungary is that voluntary work and donations are not so popular. I understand that people want to work for a salary, not as a volunteer. Most of them do not have a sufficient income so they have a second or third job that does not allow them the energy or time to be a volunteer. In addition, our society is not rich, so people do not have money to give. Despite this, things are changing, more and more support is being given by society.
X.R.: Reintegration of homeless people is often a task that takes several years, and unfortunately, it is not always achieved. Which factors do you consider a key to success in this task?
N.B.: The reintegration must stand on three legs: one is safe, secure housing, second is supported employment, and third is mental support by a social worker or psychologist, addictologist. We try to provide this in our projects.
X.R.: Sometimes this task can be frustrating. How do you get the motivation to go ahead with your work when difficult times arise?
N.B.: For me personally that is a very strong motivation, that these people are forgotten, neglected by mostly everybody. People try to ignore them. We, social workers, are the only contact between them and the society. The only people -besides other homeless people -who talk to them, listen to their stories, care for them. I try to support them, help them, because I know that nobody should live in such circumstances. Therefore, I try to do my best, to make them feel that they are human beings. And through this, maybe I help them to open up the way back to society.
X.R.: Assessment of the current situation in Hungary in the social sphere: public social services, Third Sector, etc.
N.B.: In Hungary there is a strange situation within civil services. That is because in theory they are NGOs, but in reality most of them get financial support from government. It looks like the government buys services from civil organizations that it cannot cover, because the government does not have enough institutes and stuff. Therefore, organizations get month by month support from the government. Besides this, there are applications, projects, that can support civil organizations; and of course organizations, which are not supported by the government, thus they can finance themselves.
X.R.: What are the measures applied by the government to reduce poverty and discrimination? Which measures does Menedékház apply?
N.B.: I think in Hungary deep-poverty has been grooving in the last years. Government provides public job possibilities for those who do not have other possibility to work, so they can have some minimum salary. However, it lasts for a short period, less than six months, so after the end, they become again unemployed. Therefore, there are different projects supporting poor people, or roman people, or the poorest parts of Hungary, but it is not enough and till this time it has not been very effective.
X.R.: Which are the future prospects for an entity like Menedékház?
N.B.: We would like to support more and more people, as many as we can. Try to start new projects, open our services for more needy people, try to involve more volunteers, and try to get more donors.
X.R.: Why may someone be a social worker?
N.B.: It is very simple. I always wanted to be a social worker because I wanted to help people. I do not like the suffering in the world, and I try to help to avoid it. I know that it is very idealist, and I know that unfortunately the world and humans are not like this. But it would be nice to delete all suffering in our world, and live together in peace and harmony. I am a small part of this hope with my job.Twittear