The MyBudapest Photo Project, the Photo Contest of Budapest Bike Maffia offers homeless artists an opportunity to express themselves. Season 4 started in 2019. The jury is currently sorting the entries, and we are talking to Éva Füge, head of Employment and Housing at BMSZKI shelter at Dozsa György street about the work at their shelter and the photo project.

Does the shelter at Dozsa György street have any distinguishing characteristics? Who comes to you? What forms of care do you provide?

The Budapest Methodological Centre of Social Policy (BMSZKI for short) and its Institutions are a diversified institutional system that is maintained by the Capital. It is the largest social service provider for homeless people, with 31 professional units. Amongst these, the Dózsa György street shelter is the largest service site, providing the widest range of available services and is also the center of our institutional system. It has a maximum capacity of 620 people. The center has a Social Information Center and an Admission Preparation Team to help clients access personalized services. In addition to the Dózsa Night Shelter, the Dózsa Temporary Accommodation, and the Origóc Warming Shelter, the Homeless Employment and Housing Office is also located here. The office has an average client turnover of 40 people per day, but this is significantly influenced by the seasons, the weather conditions as well as the volatility of the labor market.

When did you first get in contact with Budapest Bike Maffia? What kind of joint projects did you have so far?

In 2015 Food Angels and Budapest Bike Maffia have organized a project called ‘Low-fare Wellness and Mall’ for the Aszód Night Shelter and Warming Shelter. I think that was our first joint cooperation. The people living at the homeless shelter could use “happiness points”, ie coupons to get clothes, toiletries, and food. There was also a health assessment, the residents could participate in screening programs and get a haircut from hairdressers participating in the project.

Bike Maffia’s +1 sandwich project is very popular with our residents, and we regularly receive fresh sandwiches through the program. Raising social awareness amongst young people and communicating with schools also brings about positive changes. Social perception of homelessness shifts from negativity and judgment towards an active, willing and helpful attitude. This is how – in the long run – a new generation of adults will grow up, ones who be aware that homeless people are just as diverse as they are. From people living at underpasses to well-performing, working people who are “only struggling with housing”.
In June, the Homeless Employment and Housing Office has received a large and varied non-perishable food donation from Danone through BBM. This is a great help for us, as staying on top of things until they receive their first full monthly payment is a big challenge for our clientele. Access to free meals is often lost when they gain employment, and not all workplaces provide free or subsidized meals.

This is not the first time that you have been a partner in the MyBudapest Photo Project. What are your experiences? Why might such a program, an art project, be important to the residents of the hotel?

We have been participating in the MyBudapest Photo Project for 4 years now, since 2016. Beyond financial aid, a photo contest is a very good way for our clients to look at their situation and the world around them from a different perspective. Through the camera lens, they get to see the world differently. And the pictures provide us insight into the daily life of homeless people. The opportunity to take photos invigorates our customers. Photography as art therapy is of similar value as any other creative activity. And I think I don’t need to expound upon the long-term positive effects of art therapy.

Every creative activity that they pursue helps them express themselves. It has a self-affirming effect and provides a boost to their self-confidence. It helps them to process the traumas they have experienced.