Talking Points: Until more shelters are built, where can homeless people spend the night?

Talking Points: Until more shelters are built, where can homeless people spend the night?

This week’s topic ignited a lot of debate. It’s great to see so many readers coming up with inventive solutions to help our city’s poorest

Keefe Chan, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

As the government delays building more shelters, homeless people struggle to find safe places to sleep at night. There’s a possible solution: community or sports centres could be converted to temporary shelters after 10pm every night when those places are not being used.

Homeless people would stay sheltered and safe, and could even have access to facilities like the toilets and showers there. Of course, in return, it would be their responsibility to keep the places clean and tidy, and leave before 8am so others can use the space.

Naz Iraj, 17, St Margaret’s Girls’ College, Hong Kong

Due to the shortage of land and the high demand for housing, the government won’t be building new shelters for a long time.

Hence, homeless people can work for a family in exchange for living arrangements. Most large homes have a room for helpers, so they can stay there.

If they cannot find such a place, homeless people can live in abandoned buildings or camp areas that are not often used.

Emily Yip Hoi-lam, 13, Carmel Divine Grave Foundation Secondary School

I think homeless people should sleep on footbridges, for a few reasons. Homeless people with no job or money sleep rough because they can’t afford accommodation. As an alternative to sleeping at street level, footbridges are covered and provide shelter against wind, rain, and the pollution from cars. Plus, kind people walking past may choose to donate items or money, and might provide company for the homeless. So spending the night on a footbridge wouldn’t be such a bad idea.

Tsang Sze-wah, 16, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Government organisations and charities like Christian Concern for the Homeless Association and Street Sleepers’ Shelter Society Trustees Incorporated offer shelter to ‘street sleepers.’

Each provides free short-term shelter for the homeless where people can seek permanent accommodation. Basic necessities such as towel, toothbrush, soap, slippers, and food are given to the needy when they move in. When people don’t have a bed of their own, these organisations can be a vital lifeline.

Alan Lee, 13, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

The government should build simple, temporary houses for homeless people to rent short-term. The longest rental term would be a month, and rates would be cheap.

There’s a large number of homeless people, so the houses would need to be built somewhere with lots of land, like in New Territories – with a free shuttle bus provided.

The government should make it its priority to build shelters as soon as possible to give the homeless a better living environment.

Amber Pang Tsz-ying, 16, Ma On Shah Tsung Tsin Secondary School

I think the government should open the community centres for the homeless people to sleep there at night when the spaces aren’t being used by the public. If the authorities are trying to stop the homeless sleeping in the park, it should look to other options.

The government opens community centres for people in an emergency, such as fire or flooding. The centres are also open for the homeless of there’s a typhoon. Why can’t they open the community centres to accommodate the homeless every night until more shelters can be built?

Michael Li, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School 

There are voluntary associations that provide shelter for those homeless, but often this is not an ideal situation for some. Some homeless people don’t want to stay in a shelter because there are rules to follow, which can be hard to adapt to after being used to freedom. Building shelters will not improve the situation. The public will need to be generous and discard their prejudices if the homeless are to rejoin society and change their lives. Those living on the streets are often thought of as dirty, criminals, or uneducated. An unequal society is to blame for the homeless, who suffer even more when the public turns away or recoils.

Instead of being locked up, hidden away in shelters, or quarantined in society, homeless people need help and acceptance. Criminals are given the chance for a new start, so why can’t the homeless have the same opportunities?

Liu Wing-lam, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

There are two types of homeless people. Some end up on the streets after being kicked out by family; others sleep rough because they cannot afford rent. Anyone living on the streets faces a nightly dilemma over where to sleep. Streets, parks and subways are completely unacceptable for human habitation. Therefore, the plight of the homeless needs to receive more media attention, in order to put pressure on the government to build shelters quickly.

Lily Choi, 16, Sacred Heart Canossian College

Due to the limited supply of land in Hong Kong, the government is struggling to find places to settle homeless people. As an alternative to existing government-built shelters, some organizations also offer a roof for the homeless in temporary shelters. However, many of the services are limited to certain working hours while I think the homeless need a shelter at night during their sleep the most.

Using community buildings as shelters outside normal hours is one way to help the ill-fortuned. This will give those in need a place to spend a night without the shivering wind or disturbance of vehicles. Before proper shelters can be built, the government needs to allocate and utilize the resources it already has to help the city’s most vulnerable.

So Hoi-tong, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Indoor stadiums could offer suitable accommodation for homeless people. Being indoors would protect people from the heat of the summer and the chill of the winter.

Restaurants like McDonald's and shopping malls that open for 24 hours are currently used by many homeless people, who sleep in empty corners or sheltered areas.

Agnes Chan, 16, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Homeless people can often be found living under footbridges or by the side of road. Before the government builds shelters, there are other solutions available for temporary living. Public facilities, such as stadiums, sports grounds, parks, community centres may be busy during the day, but are closed at night. To get the most out of these facilities, the government could designate them at nighttime homeless shelters.

Alternatively, tents could be given to those sleeping rough in parks. As long as there are rules on the times for sleeping, the public can still enjoy facilities, while homeless people will no longer have to worry about where to sleep each night.

Paul Ma Chia-pao, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

I think homeless people should be able to sleep in school halls at night when the space is empty. It is too cold in winter and too hot in summer to stay outdoors, and there’s a chance they’ll get robbed. So I think school halls would be suitable for homeless sleepers, as long as a security guard is on hand.

Mak Ming-hei, 12, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

Until the government decides to build more shelters, I have some suggestions for where homeless people can spend the night. The Canal Road flyover is well-covered and offers shelter from rain. Parks are another option, but are less of a good idea because there’s often no cover, and benches sometimes have armrests to discourage rough sleepers.

Kylie Tam Ka-yuet, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Until the government builds more shelters, I think homeless people should spend the night in the park. Usually there are benches or covered pavilions, which can provide shelter. Parks are always open and free to the public and there’s usually no one around at night to disturb you.

Tina Chung, 19, Fung Kai Liu Man Shek Tong Secondary School

Homeless people can spend their night in McDonald’s 24-hour restaurants. You don’t need to spend money to stay there, and the restaurants are hygienic environments that provide free water or cheap meals.

However, homeless people should not see the restaurants as a long-term option, so the government ought to solve the problem with sheltered housing.

Charles Chow, 18, Fung Kai Liu Man Shek Tong Secondary School

An alternative to lying on the street or under an overpass, McDonald's seems to be the most comfortable shelter for the homeless. ‘McRefugees’, the people who spend all night at McDonald's, are often found in the 24-hour restaurants. They go there to sleep in an air conditioned environment, without paying rent or electricity bills. The staff and customers don’t disturb them or kick them out, though nobody cares about what help they need or where they can go.

Lau Ching-sze, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Until the government decides to build more shelters, homeless people can only wander and spend their nights outside. But the problem of homelessness will only be masked by building more shelters. Unless the homeless can find a job and earn money by themselves, instead of sponging off the government, the problem will never be solved. I think the government should put more effort into narrowing the gap between rich and poor. I think it’s the only solution to vagrancy.

Christelle Szeto Sin-kei, 16, Ma On Shan Tsung Tsin Secondary School

The homeless have no place to sleep but under footbridges or in pedestrian tunnels. They spend their nights on the street without any shelter. I think they should be allowed to stay in community centres. There, they can sleep warmly and safely even in bad weather. They will feel more comfortable there than on the streets, and may make friends. Of course, the community centres cannot accommodate the homeless for long. The government has to build more shelters quickly in order to help those who need a home.

Roanna Ng Sheung-ling, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

A 2014 City University study found there were around 1,400 homeless people in Hong Kong. The number of temporary shelters provided by the government isn’t adequate for the homeless. Many have nowhere to go at night but McDonald’s restaurants, which turn into makeshift shelters at night because many are open 24-hours and staff aren’t allowed to throw people out. This could affect business as the homeless are usually smelly. It’s a problem the government urgently needs to deal with. Out on the streets, homeless people get sick easily and are unable to find jobs. I hope the government builds more longer-term shelters so that the homeless can get back on their feet and find ways to make a living. 

Maggie Yip Man-ki, 13, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

In my view, they can spend their nights in community centre. People in the centre may freeing some places for them. That' s more comfortable for the homeless people. They may have a warm place to sleep compare from the underneath flyover. The volunteer on the centre can help them to find jobs and buy cheaper food from the centre. Also, the homeless people can spend their night in vacant and empty secondary school. Some charities may go and help them like volunteers in the community centre. After all, there should be love remain in our dearest Hong Kong. I believe our Hong Kong citizens although not the government. 

Cathy Cheung Sum-yin, 12, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

Until the government builds more shelters, I think the homeless people should take advantages of the charities, like Leung Kuk or Yan Oi Tong, that offer a safe place to sleep.

Lam Choi-ki, Class 4B, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Until the government decides to build more shelters, I think homeless people can spend their nights at McDonald’s. The fast food restaurants are air-conditioned and often open 24 hours, so attract those without a place to stay, particularly when the weather is bad. McDonald’s workers won’t tell the homeless people to leave either. McDonald’s is never busy late at night, so I’m sure that homeless people will not affect others.

Kelsey Pang Ka-ching, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Many homeless people in foreign countries spend their nights in railway stations, which aren’t particularly comfortable, clean or safe places. In HK, we see many sleeping under footbridges – but this isn’t a safe option either Instead, sports and community centres, and libraries could be kept open at night for the homeless to stay. Social workers could also be on hand to help those in need find their feet.

Suki Or Pui-chi, 12, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

I suggest homeless people should be allowed to spend their nights in sports or recreational centres for free. This arrangement would need rules, though: the lights would have to be off before 11pm to avoid affecting nearby residents. Also, it should be each person’s responsibility to tidy away their bedding and belongings in the morning before the centre is opened. It would need an organiser to decide who should be allowed to stay, to avoid facilities being abused or damaged.

Phoebe Chau Yuen-tung, 15, SKH Tsang Shiu Tim Secondary School

Many of HK’s homeless end up staying under the bridge or out on the streets without a roof over their heads. And when they get told to move on, they have to find somewhere else to sleep. As soon as the government can build shelters, the homeless will no longer have to put themselves at risk by sleeping rough. 

Li Chun-lam, 13, Carmel Divine Foundation Secondary School

Hong Kong has a lot of homeless peoples, so the government wants to build more shelters. The building work could take a long time, so where can people go in the meantime? I suggest homeless people should be allowed to stay in sports centres at night. Clean, safe, and sheltered from the weather, the centres would be a good place to let the homeless sleep. When the government finally tackles this problem, Hong Kong will become a clean and nice city. 

Yeong Hoi-ming, Class 2C, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

When people don’t have a home, job or much money, they often find shelter under bridges, in alleys, parks, or on the streets. Finding somewhere to sleep is tricky, because they might get stopped by security guards, and such outdoor places are often dirty. The government really has no other option than to build more shelters as soon as possible.

Lucas Lau Cheuk-hin, 13, Carmel Divine Grace Foundation Secondary School

In very hot or cold weather, homeless people can temporarily live in community centres provided by the government. But this doesn’t solve the problem of long-term accommodation. I have a few suggestions. They could live in disused places, such as schools, cinemas or old villages. They’d be able to spend their nights there and have a safe place for their belongings. Then, when the government has finished building the new shelters, the homeless people can move in.

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