[Hpn] Helping Homeless Helps Us

William C. Tinker wtinker@metrocast.net
Sun, 23 Jan 2005 09:35:50 -0500


January 23, 2005

[EDITORIALS]Helping the homeless helps us

A protest was held by homeless people at Seoul Station recently. The
protesters claimed that the recent string of deaths among homeless at the
station was caused by physical abuse from the station's security staff. The
rally became heated when protesters starting throwing furniture in the
station's waiting room. The number of homeless people has increased with the
long recession and along with it, the number of breaches in public order.
Countermeasures are urgently needed. The Seoul Metropolitan Government
estimates that that there are some 2,900 homeless people in the city. As if
to reflect the high unemployment rate, the number of homeless people in
their 20s and 30s are on the rise. There has also been a visible increase in
the number of homeless people who move in family units that include women
and children under the age of 20. It seems that the phenomenon of long-term
homelessness as is found in more advanced countries has started in our
country as well. The biggest group of homeless can be found around Seoul
Station, numbering 400 or 500 people.
Even during the daytime, pedestrians are afraid to use the underground
passages where the homeless usually live. There have been cases of homeless
people forcibly stopping pedestrians and demanding money. Some homeless even
raid neighboring households and shops to demand food. Senseless crimes in
the subway have also increased. A homeless man pushed a woman off a subway
platform and another stabbed a passenger.
The government does not seem to have a plan. In the case of Seoul Station, a
staff of 20 is in charge of the homeless. The only services and facilities
that Seoul Metropolitan Government provides for the homeless are shelters
during harsh winter weather, an emergency shelter for drunk people, a
counseling center where people can wash clothes and take showers and a free
medical clinic. Other than that, the homeless are on their own. They are not
blameless, either. Many refuse counseling or don't go to shelters because
they don't want to abide by the rules and no-drinking regulations. Some
refuse because they are credit delinquents who don't want to be identified.
The government should first reinforce police patrols in homeless areas. It
should also set welfare policies, such as arranging jobs for those with
working abilities and the will, to stand on their own again.