Surviving between a rock and a hard place

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 21 August, 2011, 12:00am


For more than half his life, 58-year-old street sleeper Cheung 'Ah-hoi' has lived between a rock and a hard place.

Since the age of 28, Cheung has lived under the Tung Chau Street flyover in Sham Shui Po, flanked on one side by a jade market while eking out his survival in a makeshift home. Every day, he can see stall owners selling the auspicious stones, valued for its symbol of perfection and bringing luck, while living in a world far from such virtues.

The walls of his room are made out of broken umbrellas, while layers of thin, old mattresses and cardboard provide him a sleeping place, smaller than a double bed.

He shares the strip under the flyover with 10 other street sleepers, who all have built similar homes with objects they have found on the streets.

Cheung migrated from Shantou, Guangdong province , to Hong Kong in 1962 to join his parents. He is married and has two adult children in their 30s who live overseas, but he has not seen or heard from his family for decades.

Cheung, nicknamed 'Ah-hoi', worked as a cleaner, but he was never able to secure a stable job and soon found himself on the streets. Despite his situation, Cheung is not bitter and said he prefers the open space that living on the streets affords him.

'I don't like the cubicle units, and I like living on the street,' he said.

'I'm not particularly unhappy, but the government does not take the problem of street sleepers seriously.'

He said the nightly cleaning work at the nearby park confused him. 'I don't understand the purpose of it, and it's a waste of resources,' he said.

He said the government appeared to have cracked down on street sleepers in recent years. They removed the roofs of rotundas in the nearby park and laid pebbles over one-third of the area of each rotunda, making it near impossible for the street sleepers to lie down there comfortably.