Dispersing the homeless people who gather at the Taipei Railway Station will not help solve the problem as they will only return, a Taipei City Government official said yesterday.
Shih Yi-ling (師豫玲), head of the city government's Department of Social Welfare, said that homeless people hanging around the railway station and other transportation hubs is a common phenomenon around the world.
The authorities have a duty to maintain order by taking action, she said, saying that her department will respect the decisions its superiors will make in carrying out their duties. However, she said that she was opposed to forceful dispersal or the imposition of a loitering ban as such measures would "create human rights disputes."
She made the remarks one day after the Taiwan Railway Administration (TRA) decided to take action against the homeless at the Taipei Railway Station to protect the station's clean and orderly image.
TRA officials noted that the basement parking lots at the Taipei Railway Station are occupied by homeless people all year round, with some of the homeless also using the restrooms in the station to do their laundry or bathe, which they said has frightened some passengers.
They said there have also been incidents of fire breaking out in the winter time when the homeless build fires and huddle around them to keep warm.
TRA officials said on Friday that station officials would disperse the homeless at 7am and 5pm daily and after the last train departs at 12:20am each night there would be another clearing operation.
Shih said the department has coordinated with the TRA concerning the homeless problem and has made its stance clear.
"Dispersing the homeless is only a temporary solution as they are bound to return as experiences in other countries has shown," she said.
She denied the department has not been active in seeking a solution, saying that it has sought cooperation with the TRA and has offered job opportunities or provisional housing rent subsidies to the homeless.
She said that Taipei Railway Station is usually the place where people from central and southern Taiwan looking for job opportunities in Taipei City first arrive, adding that many of those who cannot find jobs immediately seek temporary shelter at the station. She further said that with government assistance, this group of homeless would be easier to handle.
However, she admitted that some homeless do not want the government to interfere in their lives and they have no intention of working or staying in accommodation provided by the government, saying this group of the homeless is the most difficult to deal with.