Sun, Jan 01, 2012 - Page 2 News List

Homeless shelters not solution: civic groups

‘NOTHING CHANGES’:Homeless people say they are treated like children in shelters and only allowed to stay for three months, and say that they want help finding jobs

By Loa Iok-sin  /  Staff Reporter

Although the government proposed some solutions to the homeless issue after Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) sparked controversy by asking the city government to evict the homeless from parks by spraying water, civic groups are not happy with the proposed solutions, saying that they do not tackle the core of the problem.

“Following the controversy, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) and Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) proposed putting the homeless in shelters, while Ying and Taipei City officials want to make laws against the homeless,” Lee Wan-chen (李宛真), a member of the Homeless of Taiwan (HOT) — a civic group concerned with the homeless issue — told a news conference yesterday. “The only purpose of the proposals seems still to be to remove the homeless from the streets, but they’re still around, nothing changes.”

Lee said there were already many shelters, and they apparently could not solve the problem.

“Many homeless people do not want to stay in shelters because they don’t have freedom there, they’re treated like kindergarten kids. Besides, many homeless shelters require the homeless to get a job within three months and move out, but it’s not easy for them since they start out from a very disadvantaged position,” Lee said.

A 55-year-old homeless man nicknamed A-pao (阿寶), who attended the news conference, agreed with Lee.

“There’s no freedom in the shelters, we had to tell the administrators when we were going out, and had to tell them when we planned to come back, we were not allowed to bring food from outside, and everything was so disciplined,” A-pao said. “Some people say we became homeless because we’re lazy, but it’s not true. I became homeless because I lost my job in 2003 amid the SARS scare, and could not find a regular job since then because I didn’t have a good education, and I could only stay on the streets because I have no money.”

A-pao is unable to talk clearly, because he had a stroke about two years ago, which only made it harder for him to find steady work.

A few years ago, A-pao was hit by a car and had a serious bone fracture in his right leg, and still has not fully recovered.

“At the time, I was taken into a shelter, and after three months, I was kicked out and urged to find a job — but I wasn’t able to find a job because of the way I looked, and because of the injury to my leg,” he said.

“If the government could do anything for me, I only want them to help me find a job, so I can make a living on my own,” he said when asked what he would like the government to do for him.

It may be not just A-pao’s wish, because according to a survey conducted by the HOT last year, almost 70 percent of homeless people in Taipei are looking for a job, but can only find seasonal or temporary employment.

“Politicians say they will help the homeless, but I don’t think they really understand the issue,” Lee said. “We’re also worried about the proposal to make laws against the homeless, since most of the politicians seem to discriminate against the homeless, and we’re worried that the legislation may only legalize discrimination and maltreatment of the homeless.”

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