Street sleeper denied public housing after seven-year wait due to small mishap in forms

He had been to see his new flat and was looking forward to moving in, until a discrepancy in the paperwork dashed Yeung Chau-shing's hopes

PUBLISHED : Monday, 16 December, 2013, 12:17pm
UPDATED : Tuesday, 17 December, 2013, 4:13am

After seven years of waiting for a public housing flat, Yeung Chau-shing thought his day had come.

But before the keys could be handed over, there was one more form to fill out – the consequences of which would see the one-legged and homeless 52-year-old denied a place to live and left in limbo.

Yeung filled in his initial application for a flat seven years ago stating he was “unmarried”. Three weeks ago he was asked to fill in one final form before he could call the flat in Fu Cheong Estate home. On that form he said he was married but had lost contact with his wife.

It was a discrepancy that would deny him his home.

Yeung and his wife have been separated for a number of years but have not completed any divorce papers, Yeung said.

For practical purposes Yeung considered himself single since he did not plan to live in the flat with his wife and did not know where she was.

The discrepancy between forms caused the Housing Authority to freeze Yeung’s application pending further investigation.

“I haven’t seen her in years,” he said. “I don’t even know where to find her.”

Yeung said he had not meant to deceive authorities and had not put much thought into it before choosing “unmarried” on his original form, since there was no other more appropriate option.

“If you see it from the regulatory point of view, what the officials did was right. But if you look at the specific situation, I wonder if there could be more empathy shown towards [Yeung’s situation] – he’s been waiting a while already,” said Benson Tsang Chi-ho, who has been helping Yeung with his application and posted his dilemma online. Facebook “If there can be discretionary cases, couldn’t this be one of them?”

Tsang said he had seen other similar cases among street sleepers, who could not apply for public housing because they could not find their spouses to obtain a divorce.

“If that was a problem, why did they not ask during all these years?” Tsang said.

Sleeping on the street became harder after Yeung lost his leg last year. He said he had been looking forward to getting into his new flat, which he had visited a couple of times for pre-inspections. It was his second offer of a flat from the Housing Authority.

“Right now, I am very disappointed,” Yeung said. “And I don’t know how much longer I need to wait. It’s hopeless now.”

A Housing Authority spokesman said it will reassess the applicant’s eligibility for public rental housing in accordance with the relevant guidelines.

“Should the applicant be found to be still eligible for the flat allocated, we will re-offer to him the same flat in Fu Cheong Estate,” he said. “However, if false declaration is involved, the application concerned will be cancelled and prosecution may also be contemplated.”