Buy a fan for Hong Kong’s poorest suffering in the heat: donations sought for 10,000 who go without air con and even ice cream

After a fortnight which saw temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius in some areas, Society for Community Organisation calls on Hongkongers to think of those in inadequate housing

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 03 June, 2018, 12:21pm
UPDATED : Monday, 04 June, 2018, 12:56pm

A social services group has called for donations to help more than 10,000 Hongkongers battling sweltering heat in subdivided flats, illegal rooftop structures and so-called cage homes, after a surprisingly early heatwave that saw temperatures hit 38 degrees Celsius in some areas.

The Society for Community Organisation has already received offers from at least nine individuals wishing to help one family whose plight was reported by the Post on Wednesday.

The couple and their two young girls have been living for the past two years in a 250 sq ft illegal structure on the roof of a 15-storey building in Kowloon’s Tai Kok Tsui.

Relying on a monthly income of HK$8,000 (US$1,000) from the father – a disabled man working as a street cleaner – and paying HK$4,500 in rent, the family couldn’t even afford to have ice cream in their fridge for the two girls. When their unstable electricity supply acted up, the mother was forced to give the girls cold showers twice a night to help them cool down.

The “very hot weather” warning was in place for 15 days before the Observatory took it down on Friday evening. Nine meteorological records for the month of May were broken, including those for the number of consecutive hot days, the earliest issuance of a hot weather warning and the latest rainstorm warning.

Hong Kong’s poorest struggle to keep cool as city endures record long May heatwave

On Friday, the first day of June, the Observatory issued a thunderstorm warning, and daily showers have been forecast for the coming week. But the maximum temperature will remain above 30 degrees.

Sze Lai-shan, a veteran social worker with the society, said the family’s hardship had been similarly endured by more than 10,000 people in their service network. She said most were living in inadequate housing such as subdivided flats partitioned from larger properties in old buildings, so-called cage homes where residents are only given a bed space, flats in commercial buildings, or illegal structures on the rooftops of residential high-rises.

For more than a decade the society has distributed 200 electric fans costing about HK$200 to those in need every summer, Sze said.

“We will start to buy and give away electric fans from now until the end of August,” she said.

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“Supermarket vouchers are also welcome as they can pay for extra fruit and vegetables.”

Official data shows nearly 210,000 Hongkongers were living in 92,700 subdivided flats in 2016, up from 195,500 people in a 2014 survey.

But Sze said the government was underestimating the number of residents who made do with inadequate housing.

“The subdivided flats in the surveys didn’t include illegal spaces in commercial buildings or some structures such as squatter huts originally built for livestock,” she said.

Those interested in making a specific donation to SoCO can make a direct deposit to the group’s poverty relief account at HSBC account number 017-3-063009, sending the bank receipt by email to [email protected] or via fax to 2761-3326. To receive a donation receipt, please provide your name and mailing address in your correspondence.

Those seeking to make a general donation can fill out this form.

SoCO staff are available for enquiries at +852 2713 9165 or 9152 4331.