The Taipei City Government and the Taiwan Railways Administration (TRA) should scrap their plan to remove homeless people’s belongings around Taipei Railway Station, protesters said yesterday.
“Belongings are not trash,” “Let homeless people participate in policy drafting,” about 20 protesters shouted in a demonstration outside the station, where piles of cardboard bedding and bags containing homeless people’s possessions have been accumulating.
Many homeless people also participated in the demonstration, which was coordinated by Homeless of Taiwan, the Taiwan Association for Human Rights and other groups.
“We demand that the city government and the TRA halt their plans to forcibly remove homeless people’s belongings and begin to coordinate on how to provide a fixed location for storage,” Homeless of Taiwan executive board member Kuo Ying-ching (郭盈靖) said.
Both the city government and the TRA posted notices saying they will dispose of any homeless person’s belongings that remain outside the station today, Kuo added.
“Because they both put up notices, homeless people cannot put anything within the red line [outside the station] which is under the TRA’s jurisdiction, nor can they put anything outside the line in the area managed by the city government,” Homeless of Taiwan executive board member Lee Wan-chen (李宛真) said, calling for advocates and the homeless to be consulted on plans for managing the belongings.
Some size and volume restrictions forcing people to “pick and choose” what to keep might be acceptable, as long as there was a fixed site for storing items, she said.
“Charitable people are going to keep giving, so why should the authorities keep periodically throwing everything away? Doing that will inspire more giving to remedy the loss, is that not a weird cycle?” she said.
“The TRA states on its Web site that if any tourist or pedestrian loses something at Taipei Railway Station, they will hold it until it is claimed — for them to treat the belongings of homeless people as trash is blatant discrimination,” Taiwan Association for Human Rights vice secretary-general Shih Yi-hsiang (施逸翔) said, adding that under city regulations, the government is obligated to consult homeless people before throwing away their belongings.
“These are treasures, not trash, because without them there would be no way to sleep or live,” said an elderly homeless woman surnamed Chang (張), who displayed a waist-high pile of blankets and clothes she had accumulated from donations since the Chinese New Year holiday.
Their belongings had been cleared out twice since she started living outside the station in November last year, she said, adding that she came to the station because of the availability of donations.
“There are people here who give us things, so there is no fear that you will not have anything to eat or sleep on,” she said.
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