The Hungarian Reformed Church and the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid have launched a new financial support programme as a means to offer help to families which have lost their homes due to the crashing of their foreign exchange loans.
The initial plan is to provide these families with a six-month support scheme. Along with a temporary solution for their accomodation, they will receive help in the fields of mental hygiene and life management. These complementary services will be provided by social workers as part of the Life Belt Programme.
The Hungarian Reformed Church and the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid created their own financial support base without external help in order to make it possible for families in need to be able to move into their new temporary homes before the winter holiday season.
The official opening ceremony and the press conference of the programme took place on December 6th, where Gusztáv Bölcskei presented the idea behind the Life Belt Programme in the light of the church's tasks during the advent, a period of waiting and expectation. What the church can offer in this world of despair and crisis is an often recurring question. As the Head of the Reformed Church stated, in these days of uncertainty we experience the loss of stability not only in the field of economy, but also in our everyday routine. What we are facing is a whole cluster of problems, but the solution has to be specific. In the words of László Ravasz, one of Gusztáv Bölcskei's predecessors, “Our task is not to solve problems but to break chains”.
In practice this means to prevent the social exclusion of families and individuals, which would be a natural consequence of losing one's home. The programme will also provide protection against the disintegration of families, assistance in restarting careers and help to establish a decent and maintainable financial status.
As Dániel Osgyán, international and crisis-handling manager of the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid reported, presently 600 thousand foreign exchange loans are registered in Hungary, out of which 120 thousand are considered “problematic”, which means that in these cases the payment is 6-12 months overdue. Based on unofficial estimations, only in Budapest 3000 families are in danger of eviction at the moment. The eviction moratorium started on December 1st, but during the past months at least 100-200 families have become homeless.
In Gusztáv Bölcskei's words, the church has to feel responsible for people in need, but it is not the church's task to do away with the source of the problem. Now is not the time to investigate whose fault this unfortunate situation is. Now is the time for action.
The Life Belt Programme has been created for people who have both the desire and the will-power to make a change in their life, to cope with the challenge they have to face due to the approaching time of their eviction. Sándor Pál, Head of the Reformed Church Aid Advisory Board highlighted two concepts in relation to the programme: responsibility and transparency.
Dániel Osgyán discussed the technical details of the Life Belt Programme. Having submitted their application to the Church Aid, families will undergo a certain kind of checking procedure, in the course of which the foundation is going to examine whether the families made a responsible decision when they applied for their bank loan. It will also be investigated whether their insolvency has an economic reason, or it is a consequence of a change in their life situation. Another important criterion is whether the applicants have taken all steps possible to find an agreement with their creditor. If a family suits all criteria, the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid makes it possible for it to join the programme, which is first going to be launched with the involvement of ten families. The number of supported families will always be determined by the all-time budget.
The Aid has commissioned an external real estate office to provide professional help in the decision-making process. The foundation takes the families' individual needs and the local real estate market opportunities into consideration as it tries to find possible temporary homes. Before moving in, the families have to sign a contract which will protect the interests of both renters and their landlords. The financial support system is not designed to cover the maintenance of the apartments. The families are obliged to pay their utility bills regularly. The foundation and the church will make sure to create the most favourable provider environment for them.
In the case of every family, the Aid will pay six months' rent upfront to the landlords. The selected families will be given the opportunity to participate in the programme for half a year. During this period, hopefully, they can reorganise their life and gain enough time to find new employment, if necessary. Children will be able to find their place in a new school community if the family has to resettle far from its old home.
The Aid's social workers will continuously observe the everyday life of these families. Their task is to provide the family members with sufficient information and life guidance, so that they can start a new phase of their life. The Aid is willing to involve hundreds of families in the programme if the budget allows it.
The Reformed Church would like to encourage its members to join these efforts and offer their own, inactive real estate to be used by families in need. The church promises to guarantee the volunteering landlords financially favourable rental conditions. As Gusztáv Bölcskei emphasised it, the Aid is primarily expecting Reformed volunteers, but the denominational status of the applying families will not be taken into consideration in the decision-making process.
If you have any question, do not hesitate to contact the Hungarian Reformed Church Aid Foundation at:
Hungarian Reformed Church Aid Foundation office
1146 Budapest, Hungária körút 200.
Telephone: 06 1 273 0449