Sleeping rough - the final humiliation

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 January, 1999, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 18 January, 1999, 12:00am

A former cage dweller said he felt insulted making his home on the street but could no longer afford the meagre rent to keep a roof over his head.

After sheltering in a cage in Tai Kok Tsui on and off for 30 years, Kwong Chiu-on, 55, packed his belongings into a box in September and went to Fuk Tsun Street, which he now calls home.

It was one of the most embarrassing moments the ex-convict and drug addict could recall after serving three years in prison for possessing dangerous drugs.

'People give humiliating glances to me. I feel very bad. It seems they're murmuring that I am so useless I can't even afford a home,' said Mr Kwong, who receives about $1,500 public assistance a month.

Mr Kwong used up all his savings on paying $1,400 monthly rent for the cage after he was released from jail in October 1997. But up to now, the former construction worker has failed to find even a temporary job.

'If I could have a job, I would not have become a street sleeper. It's the last solution,' he said.

Mr Kwong moved on to the street after owing rent for more than two months.

'I do not blame the cage home operator. It's not a charity home. He's only doing business,' he said.

'And one-third of the dwellers are owing him rent because of the bad financial conditions. Many of them are unemployed and are only eating up their savings now.' Mr Kwong registered with the Labour Department's employment unit a few months ago but has received no positive response so far.

'Though poverty has never left my life, it is the first time I have to sleep on the streets. I am reluctant to accept the reality,' he said.