September 6~12, 2010
Taipei’s campaign to drive out homeless ahead of International Flora Expo sparks criticism
Reported by Chiou Kuo-rong
Written by Lydia Ma
“We ask the city government to stop driving out homeless people from the streets!“ said Homeless Action Alliance Convener and Salvation Army Homeless Shelter’s social worker, Kuo Ying-ching.
Her remarks were in response to Taipei City Wan-Hua District Police’s recent efforts to drive out homeless people from the area, which led to much debate about the rights of the homeless. This incident also highlighted a serious social issue shortly after a government report on the economic disparity between Taiwan’s richest and the poorest made headlines in Taiwan.
It turned out the move to sweep out the homeless was orchestrated by the city government in preparation for hosting the 2010 Taipei International Flora Exposition set to begin on November 6, 2010. But for Kuo, such a directive was nothing short of sweeping a glaring social problem under the carpet. “That’s like pretending all is well and peaceful – it’s very unrealistic,” she said of the city’s “out of sight, out of mind” policy.
Many people cannot stand homeless people’s stench and dirtiness, making them easy targets ahead for such an international event. But homeless people don’t normally choose to appear so unkempt, said Kuo. The city could alleviate this problem if it would provide places for them to shower and store their personal belongings. However, such facilities are scarce and only open during government office hours.
Kuo urged the government to provide a robust welfare program in tandem with pursuing a growing, vibrant economy. She admonished that sweeping problems under the carpet by forcing homeless people out ofTaipei area would merely compound a serious existing problem and hide the fact that a sizeable minority of people live in poverty and their plights beg for our attention and assistance.