The Government has been accused of shirking its responsibility to the homeless by trying to fine a security contractor $890 for each street-sleeper spotted outside the Hong Kong Cultural Centre. The fine would be a huge leap from the $200 the Leisure and Cultural Services Department - which manages the Tsim Sha Tsim venue - currently charges its contractor for each homeless person photographed by hidden cameras. Kingsway Security Ltd has already paid nearly $1 million for cases involving more than 2,000 people caught sleeping outside the centre since July 1999. Kingsway's contract ended last month but has been extended until the end of this month as it holds talks with the department over the size of the penalty, due to come into effect with the new contract. Joseph Kwok, senior manager of Kingsway, said: 'There's no way to chase all of them away. Unlike private housing estates, these are not trespassers. It's an open area. 'How are we, as a contractor providing security guards, supposed to deal with this social problem?' The firm said it would not consider renewing the contract unless the fine was reduced. Security guard Wong Chuen-fai said: 'We just can't kick them out. Social workers have coached them to cite human rights as a reason for not leaving. 'Police officers have been called in many times but they can't help either. We are quite fed up with this situation.' Lying on his cardboard bed, homeless man Hong Kwok-ping, 46, said: 'I love sleeping at the Cultural Centre. It's nice and cool here by the sea. 'But it's such a pain that the security guards often wake you in the middle of the night. I just move around and come back to my sack,' said the former printing worker who was laid off more than a year ago. Social worker Ng Wai-tung, of the Society for Community Organisation, criticised the Government for passing the burden of the homeless on to security guards. 'The Government should find ways to accommodate homeless people at free hostels instead of spending resources to evict them,' Mr Ng said. 'Even if we are able to chase them out of the Cultural Centre, they will go somewhere else. Homeless people are humans, too.' The Leisure and Cultural Services Department did not respond to questions about the new fine from the South China Morning Post, but said the tendering exercise for the contract was under way. Sleeping in public areas is not illegal, but Cultural Centre regulations prohibit it. The Social Welfare Department said the SAR had almost 1,270 registered homeless people, almost 1.5 times higher than in January last year. The rise was mainly due to the poor job market, social groups believed. About 70 per cent of homeless people are aged between 20 and 49. The Society for Community Organisation believes the real figure could be double that. The Government provides about 450 beds at various shelters. About 270 of the bed spaces cost $1,500 a month and are staffed by social workers. A further 180 were free but had no supervision and were usually occupied by drug addicts, Mr Ng said.