When former property agent Ka-hei (not his full name to protect his privacy) helped a client sell a HK$20 million (US$2.5 million) upscale flat in Mid-Levels, he was thinking how to spend his commission. He did not expect he would be sleeping on the streets just a few years after he sealed the deal, which earned him HK$50,000. “I was in the business of helping others find homes. Now I don’t even have my own home,” says Ka-hei, 34, a casual worker who has been sleeping rough for six years. The former top property salesman, whose parents died in a traffic accident when he was 14, was once living alone in a 700 sq ft flat with two bedrooms, where he dreamed of having his own family. In 2010, Ka-hei was forced to quit the real estate industry after kidney surgery and mental health issues. He says the frequency of follow-up consultations left him unable to cope with his workload or find another full-time job. And since then, he has been taking temporary jobs, mostly in the catering and logistics fields. In early 2011, Ka-hei was kicked out by his landlord as he could not afford the rent any more. He says he had no alternative but to sleep on the streets. “I really couldn’t imagine the life of a street sleeper at that time,” he says. “Back then I thought people ended up sleeping on the streets because they were messed up.” Ka-hei says the sudden turn of fate was so sudden that he didn’t even have time to process his feelings. “I still remember three days before my landlord kicked me out I had begun to look for what I thought would be the best spot in a nearby park for me to sleep,” he recalls. High Hong Kong rents and long public housing queues push more to homelessness He says he has applied unsuccessfully for full-time jobs numerous times since he has been sleeping on the streets. Ka-hei describes himself as a “nomadic street sleeper” as he has been moving around the city, rather than staying in one fixed spot like many homeless. “If I get a job tomorrow in Tin Shui Wai, then I will sleep there the night before,” the casual worker says. Still, the self-reliant homeless says he doesn’t want to receive government hand-outs nor public housing. “I think everyone should be self-motivated so that they can improve their lives themselves,” he says. “As long as Ikeep my phone on, I can still get a job.” Homelessness Around the World Taipei There are more than 1,000 homeless people in Taipei, home to 2.7 million people, according to government’s estimates. A study last year commissioned by the Taipei Municipal Government Bureau of Social Affairs shows 70 per cent of the homeless are aged from 50 to 69. Most of the street sleepers (79 per cent) have been homeless for more than a year, while some 26.3 per cent spent more than one year but less than five years sleeping on the streets. Around 20 per cent have been homeless for six to 10 years. Tokyo Statistics released by The Tokyo Metropolitan Government in 2014 shows 1,697 homeless people in the city – the lowest since the officials started to collect data in 2002. But some community groups remain sceptical about the figures. Critics say the official data may have underestimated the actual situation as it excludes those who may be sleeping in internet cafes, fast-food restaurants or cars. Critics suggest the government only take into account people who sleep in public parks, streets and riverbeds. In 2004, the capital of Japan had a record high of 6,731 of homeless people. Phnom Penh With a population of more than 1.5 million, the capital of Cambodia has more than 180,000 people living in so-called informal settlements, according to Global Homelessness Statistics, which is run by the Scotland-based non-profit organisation Homeless World Cup Foundation. Local newspaper Khmer Times reported that 2,437 homeless children in Cambodia were assisted by the government in 2015. Of these, 964 were from Phnom Penh. London Local charity Streets of London, which funds specialist support for those who are homeless in the capital of the United Kingdom, estimates more than 8,000 people sleep rough in the city which had a population of more than 8.7 million during 2016-17. Some 45 per cent of the homeless are British nationals, while others are from Central and Eastern European countries. The charity says the number of homeless during 2016-17 has doubled in the past six years, and increased by 170 per cent in the last 10 years. San Francisco Research firm Applied Survey Research found a total of 7,499 homeless individuals on the night of January 26 this year in the city of San Francisco. That represented a 1 per cent decrease from 7,539, recorded a year ago. Of the 7,499 people found to be homeless, 1,363 were unaccompanied children under 18 and youth aged between 18 and 24. San Francisco has a population of about 860,000.