'Beautify effort' casts homeless from tiny haven

Officials erect wire fences around a section below a Yau Ma Tei flyover, forcing out dozens of street sleepers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 26 April, 2013, 6:06am

A score of street sleepers will be forced to move from their current quarters under an overpass by early next month.

Wire fences now cordon off a section below the Ferry Street flyover near the fruit market in Yau Ma Tei - a popular and out-of-the-way location for the homeless - leaving only two small entries for occupiers to enter and live for a few more days.

About 20 street sleepers had been living in that section when Lands Department officials, together with police, fenced off the area and handed out notices on April 10. The notice demanded all occupiers leave before May 7.

A Home Affairs Bureau spokeswoman said the eviction was made "with a view to resolving the environmental hygiene nuisances caused by street sleepers and to beautifying the surrounding environment".

The area is sandwiched between two highways and far from any pedestrian area. "Not only are the street sleepers out of sight, they are also out of reach," said Benson Tsang, who volunteers to help the homeless, and has spread news of the eviction on social media.

The fencing-off was approved by the Yau Tsim Mong District Council in May last year, with plans to "implement greening works".

One of the occupiers, Uncle Faat, 65, came back to find that someone had gone through all his belongings. "I have to move too, but I'll probably wait for a few more days. I'm not sure where to go," he said as he tried to gather his possessions. He had rented a tiny room for the past decade, but rent rises had forced him onto the streets a few months ago.

I have to move too, but I'll probably wait for a few more days. I'm not sure where to go

The bureau spokeswoman said the Social Welfare Department was aware of the street sleepers' living conditions, and had commissioned the Salvation Army's Integrated Services Team for Street Sleepers to conduct a number of outreach visits and to provide counselling services.