LCQ11: Providing support for street sleepers
Some members of the public have relayed that the number of street sleepers in Yau Tsim Mong District has obviously increased in recent years. A survey conducted by a university and social welfare organisations has pointed out that under the impacts of the fifth wave of the epidemic, the number of street sleepers has risen further in recent months in Hong Kong, and quite a number of them are unemployed and unable to afford housing rent. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) whether it has studied the cause of an increased number of street sleepers in recent years, so as to specifically address this issue;
(2) whether, since the outbreak of the fifth wave of the epidemic, it has compiled statistics on the number of persons who have chosen to sleep on the street due to unemployment and inability to afford housing rent; and
(3) whether it will allocate additional resources and increase the manpower of social workers to step up efforts in assisting street sleepers in finding jobs, so that they can quit street sleeping as soon as possible?
Street sleeping is a complex social problem involving policies and work of various bureaux and departments. Government departments and local service units concerned have been in close collaboration to assist street sleepers. My reply to the question raised by the Member is as follows:
(1) The Social Welfare Department (SWD) has set up a Computerised Street Sleeper Registry (Registry) to collect information about street sleepers through various service units of the SWD and non-governmental organisations (NGOs), as well as NGOs dedicated to serving street sleepers. According to the information kept by the Registry, the numbers of street sleepers in recent years are as follows:
|1 423||1 580||1 564|
The reasons for street sleeping include financial hardship, discord with family members/other tenants, loss of original accommodation, etc.
The three Integrated Services Teams for Street Sleepers (ISTs) subvented by the SWD conduct outreaching visits to approach street sleepers for early identification of their needs, providing them with appropriate social welfare support in accordance with their individual situation, including personal care (e.g. bathing, haircut and meal arrangement), emergency shelter/short-term accommodation, as well as emergency fund to cover various expenses (e.g. short-term payment of rent and living costs, rental deposits and other removal expenses). The ISTs also provide service referrals, such as employment guidance/support, referrals to related services and Comprehensive Social Security Assistance referrals.
At present, there are a total of 620 places of temporary accommodation for street sleepers, including 228 NGO-operated short-term hostel/emergency shelter places subvented by the SWD, and 392 places provided by NGOs on a self-financing basis. The average occupancy rate of subvented places in 2021-22 (up to December 2021) is about 74 per cent. The social workers responsible will provide services such as counselling and service referrals to street sleepers during their stay in subvented places. The SWD will conduct, on an on-going basis, service planning having regard to service demand and the resources available.
In response to the recent development of the epidemic, the SWD has reached a consensus with the ISTs, in which the ISTs will keep in view the service needs and utilisation of the emergency fund, and will make flexible arrangements on funding allocations while the SWD will increase the provision for emergency fund where necessary, so as to meet the pressing needs of street sleepers.
(2) According to the information kept by the Registry, the number of street sleepers failing to pay their rent mainly due to unemployment during the fifth wave of the epidemic (Note 1) (around 548) is more or less the same as the number of those registered before the fifth wave of the epidemic (Note 2) (around 561).
(3) In 2020-21, the SWD increased resources to enhance its existing welfare support services for street sleepers, including strengthening professional support (e.g. manpower of social workers and nurses) and supervisory support for the ISTs and the Care and Support Networking Team. The SWD will continue to keep in view the welfare service needs of street sleepers while maintaining communication and collaboration with stakeholders and the government departments concerned, and will provide appropriate welfare support services for street sleepers according to their personal welfare needs so as to help them quit street sleeping.
Note 1: End-May 2022
Note 2: End-December 2021
Ends/Wednesday, July 6, 2022
Issued at HKT 16:10
Issued at HKT 16:10