Pet park plans at centre of homeless row

An animal-friendly area is one of the ideas the Yau Ma Tei District Council is considering for a space now being cleared of 20 street sleepers

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 02 May, 2013, 5:09am

Street sleepers in Yau Ma Tei are being evicted from a flyover to make way for a park for pets, among other suggestions from the district council.

More than 20 street sleepers under the Ferry Street flyover were served eviction notices last month to vacate the now partially fenced-off area by next Tuesday, although the actual use of the area is yet to be finalised.

The Yau Tsim Mong District Council plans to turn land under the flyover into cultural and leisure areas. It intends to "beautify the surrounding environment" with about HK$32 million worth of greening works.

Ideas included a pet-friendly park, a martial arts practice space and a mini-car racing ground.

Ng Wai-tung, from the Society for Community Organisation, said four street sleepers applied for legal aid last Friday and were prepared to take the government to court.

"The government, together with the Yau Tsim Mong District Council's reasons for clearing [the street sleepers], are unreasonable," he said, adding that the street sleepers would meet government officials today to discuss the eviction.

When the South China Morning Post visited last week, fewer than 10 people were still living in the area.

Ng said that while the decision was approved by the district council, the government had a responsibility as well, because the area was a public space. Seven government departments were involved in the plan, he said.

"Whenever something like this happens, the government needs to provide housing services. But so far, there has been nothing - no action," said Ng.

"This is a cold-blooded move … They would rather spend money on pots of flowers than to solve the homeless problem."

Uncle Wah, 63, who lives on the other side of the flyover, told the Post last week that he started living on the streets after the rent for his cubicle home rose 100 per cent. He begins work at 3am at a fruit market, earning about HK$6,000 a month - most of which he sends to his relatives on the mainland.

Another person, Uncle Faat, said he had rented a tiny room for the past decade, but rent rises had forced him onto the streets a few months ago.

In February last year, the government threw away the belongings of dozens of street sleepers without warning. The incident drew widespread criticism and resulted in the first legal case pitting street sleepers against the government.

The case, which dragged on until November, ended in a settlement of HK$2,000 compensation for each of the 19 street sleepers who sued. Two died before the agreement was reached.