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Wednesday, Dec 01, 2021

Homeless vow to defend subway after eviction

Some homeless people have vowed to fight until the end to defend a pedestrian subway in affluent Happy Valley which they have called home for months or even years following an eviction order to be implemented today.
The order to evict those residing in the subway - on Wong Nai Chung Road near the Hong Kong Jockey Club headquarters - came after The Standard's report last month on street sleepers claiming the spot as their "luxurious" living space.

A notice from the Lands Department was posted on the subway's wall on Monday, ordering them to move out in two days as they were "illegally occupying unleased land." On the same day, the Food and Health Department also posted a notice on the wall, saying they would conduct cleansing work in the subway.

"If there are unwanted articles, you may wish to place them into the demarcated area in the morning for collection and disposal by the department," the notice read.

Briton Ken, 57, one of the homeless people living in the tunnel, slammed the authorities for the unsympathetic approach toward people like him. He said he and his girlfriend did not have a plan B on resettling in other places for now.

"We are in a really bad situation," he said. "If they are going to kick us out, we have nowhere to go, so do other people living here."

Ken said around 15 personnel from the Home Affairs Department, along with several police constables, visited the subway on Monday.

"They said we were not entitled to stay here, then they said we weren't even entitled to a single mattress on the floor," Ken said Home Affairs Department staff told them.

Ken said staff also told him to remove all illegal items. "I only got a sheet under my name - just to give some privacy," he told the officers.

But they insisted that he remove the sheet, he said. He said his living struggles had been compounded by his disability due to his spinal problem from working in the construction industry. Ken added: "I have been diagnosed as a 100 percent disabled person. Some days I am fine, but other days I can't walk or move."

Ken said he was supposed to have a spine operation last October, but that came to a halt because he realized he had to look after his girlfriend, who has an undiagnosed psychosis. "Because of my concerns on the recuperation following the operation, I am still putting the thoughts of the operation aside first."

He said he and his girlfriend are currently relying on comprehensive social security assistance - HK$6,000 per month from his application - to make ends meet.

"My girlfriend was reluctant to put in any paperwork, so she is not entitled to any social welfare," he said.

Ken hoped the authorities could consider resettling homeless people living in the tunnel to other places, and more social workers could intervene in the clearance.

Jeff Rotmeyer, founder of ImpactHK - a charity aiming to get homeless people off the streets - said two full-time employees of the charity used to live in the Happy Valley subway.

"The [authorities'] strategy of telling [homeless people] to go elsewhere, helps no one," he said.

As of the end of July, 1,556 street sleepers were recorded by the Social Welfare Department, opposed to 1,483 at the same time last year.

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