The impact of inflation on Budapest's street paper and homeless community

A street paper signs their unique reference number on a recent issue of the Hungarian street paper Fedél Nélkül

Each issue of Fedél Nélkül is signed out to distributors and their unique reference number is added to each copy they purchase. There are currently 140 active distributors and the paper has a circulation of 3,000 per issue. Credit: Ruth Goodwin

By Ruth Goodwin

  • Street paper news
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Fedél Nélkül cover

As 2022 enters its final months, inflation and its very real effect on individuals is showing no sign of relenting. On the streets of Budapest, Hungary, the homeless community is encountering this issue in a unique way. The local street paper Fedél Nélkül is at the centre of it.

Soaring living costs are impacting many globally. As 2022 enters its final months, inflation and its very real effect on individuals is showing no sign of relenting. On the streets of Budapest, Hungary, the homeless community is encountering this issue in a unique way.

Fedél Nélkül is the local Budapest street paper, a venture developed in collaboration with Menhely Alapitvány (The Shelter Foundation) - an organisation that provides a number of services to the homeless community. The paper began in 1991 and is sold by community members, known as distributors, enabling them to earn an income for their work. They buy the paper at cost price and sell it for a profit. This is similar to the business model of other street publications worldwide. The name of the paper Fedél Nélkül loosely translates to 'without a roof' in English.

With the cost of printing and other production costs increasing this year, the price of each copy of Fedél Nélkül has had to increase to ensure the operation remains viable. Over the 12 months to August 2022, the cost to distributors for each copy has increased from 70 to 100 Hungarian Forints. Previously it took 15 years for the cost to increase from 30 forints to 70 forints per copy.

Social worker Molnár Vilmos sorts through past issues of Fedél Nélkül

Social worker Molnár Vilmos sorts through past issues of Fedél Nélkül, the Budapest street paper. The publication is released fornightly, every second Thursday, and has been active since 1991. Credit: Ruth Goodwin.

To cover this increased cost, the amount street paper vendors need to receive from selling each copy of the magazine, in order to generate an income, also needs to increase. There is no fixed selling price for the paper and its price is determined by the generosity of the person purchasing it. This can be anything between 500 forints and 1,000 forints (approximately £1 to £2) and can often depend on the area where it's being sold.

The distributors say that receiving anything between 5 and 10 times the cost of the paper is considered a good scenario. In reality some may receive a contribution as low as 200 forints (two times the cost of the paper).

Inflation gives no consideration to individual circumstances and it's immune to honourable intentions. With the cost of food and essential items increasing, the distributors continue to be squeezed. They are members of society who live with no buffer and increases in their basic living costs have stark impacts.

Street paper vendor ID cards

Each distributor is given a pass showing their ID and authorisation to sell the paper. The blue pass is valid for 6 months and the "cream of the crop" red pass is given to community members who participate in organised programs. Credit: Ruth Goodwin.

Distributor István Szuna, 57, talks of his experience. He works in the 13th district of Budapest, close to Margaret Bridge and Jászai Mari Square. He has sold 2,246 papers and been to the Fedél Nélkül office a total of 124 times (to August 2022).

"Of course, an occasional price increase of 10 Forints isn't a lot, but it adds up. I told many customers, that it's getting more expensive, and it's a pretty well-known fact by now. They usually try to compensate for it. Most of them are understanding, but not all of them, unfortunately. It's very common that someone just donates between a 100 and 200 forints, but then there are others who really appreciate the paper and give a minimum of 500 or 1,000 forints. So, there are some people who are very understanding of our work," he said.

"I'm mostly impacted when I'm buying food - it's terrible. The financial aid I'm getting, because I'm disabled, hasn't changed at all. Inflation is rising, but not the aid I'm getting. So if this paper didn't exist, I don't know what would happen to me," he continued.

Social worker and Fedél Nélkül team member Molnár Vilmos emphases that those living without heating in Budapest's harsh winter temperatures are in danger over the winter months. "People may think that putting four or five blankets on them will be enough, and unfortunately it's not."

Ruth Goodwin is an Australian photo-journalist / www.ruthjgoodwin.com / http://ruthgoodwin.exposure.co / @ruthgoodwinphoto

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