As the nation gets ready to celebrate the Lunar New Year holiday, President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) yesterday called for more understanding and care for the homeless, promising to set up service centers around the country to offer them assistance.
Ma, in his weekly online speech, discussed the issue with the director of the homeless service center in New Taipei City (新北市), Huang Mei-ying (黃梅英). He praised the center for helping the homeless with positive measures, including offering job training courses, and said the Ministry of the Interior would set up more facilities and offer temporary job opportunities to help the homeless return to society.
“The public should be more understanding and sympathetic toward the homeless, because anyone could face a drastic change in fortune, forcing them to live on the streets,” he said.
“Paying more attention [to their plight] would reduce misunderstanding,” he said.
The issue of the homeless came into focus recently after Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Taipei City Councilor Angela Ying (應曉薇) suggested that the Taipei City Government evict homeless people from Bangka Park in front of Longshan Temple (龍山寺) by spraying them with water.
Ying later offered a public apology amid waves of protests from human rights advocates, but insisted that homeless people create social problems and spark fear among local residents, saying many were alcoholics, gamblers and criminals.
Negative stereotypes about the homeless should be dispelled, Ma said, adding that most were harmless and society should strive to gain a better understanding of the issue in order to solve this problem.
Earlier yesterday, Ma accompanied his mother to shop at a market in Muzha (木柵) in preparation for the Lunar New Year celebration. Ma bought dumplings, vegetables and fruits, and extended New Year blessings to vendors in the area.
He also visited a orphanage and then participated in a dinner party with the elderly who live alone in Sanchong District (三重), New Taipei City.