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Homeless in Taipei 

homeless in taipei 0423

Taipei is a vibrant lively city with so many wonderful things to see and do. It has world class shopping and restaurants and the famous night markets. Millions of people come here to experience it and of course enjoy the good food! It’s returning to its old self now after the dark days of the pandemic. Unfortunately, everyone doesn’t benefit from prosperity. Hundreds of citizens are homeless on the streets.

What is being done to help these people and what more can we do?

In recent conversations with people working with the homeless in Taipei I learned some interesting things. Just as Taiwan and the world are coming back to life and normal, the homeless are also coming back again. Most facts and figures are “guess-timates” but it seems that there are more homeless. Maybe because it’s more difficult to find work or families and relationships have been under greater stress.

In Taipei and New Taipei, there are 3 government run shelters. Each can hold 200 to 300 people. Social workers and police meet prospective residents on the streets and see if they would be a good fit. A person going to live in a shelter must agree to be looking for a job or be working, to be actively engaged with counseling and other self-improvement efforts.

Facilities and Services for the Homeless

These facilities and services are funded by a combination of government and private donations.
Some people don’t want to go into a shelter because it might mean relocation to another part of the city that they’re not familiar with or don’t want to be in. Some can’t work for various reasons but don’t qualify for disability benefits. Many people fall through the cracks as we say.
We can see many people sleeping outdoors and on the sidewalk. They have some blankets and cardboard boxes for a mattress. Sleeping outdoors presents many challenges. For example, how do you bathe and wash your clothes? Basic hygiene. In February, 2022, Homeless Taiwan opened the Pon Pon bathhouse near Longshan Temple. I spoke to Meng Hsun Chiang who helps to operate the bathhouse. She tells me they have services for taking showers and fundamental hygienic practices. It’s also an opportunity to connect with the social services workers and discover other things that can help them. The initial plan was to serve 15 people a day. One year later, they are serving 60 to 70 people each day. They have plans to open another bathhouse this year and offer more services. It’s done on a budget of only 1.3 million NT per year. The funds come 60% from donations and 40% from the government.

Homeless Taiwan

Homeless Taiwan also has 3 shelters that handle 10 people each. Two are for men and one for women. The large majority of homeless are men and over 70% are over 40 years old. As a person gets older it becomes harder to get a job especially one that requires you to be physically fit. Of course, with hundreds of homeless people in Taipei, 30 shelter beds are just a drop in the bucket. It’s a complicated issue. There’s also the temporary homeless. Some people lose their housing for various reasons and they do find housing again but might have nothing for a few weeks or months. There’s also domestic violence and abuse. There are services for this but it’s a very stressful situation and many people struggle and don’t know what to do or where to go. Another solution is matching people with appropriate landlords. Not every landlord wants to rent to someone who has been homeless but some are willing to do it. Homeless Taiwan works to find good matches and housing in this way.

Another interesting project run by Homeless Taiwan and Hidden Taipei is a walking tour given by a gentleman who was previously homeless. It’s done on a Saturday morning and takes two hours. He shows you the places in and around Taipei Station where he used to live and many homeless still do. The tour is in Chinese and English. I recently went on the tour for the second time. It’s really fascinating. I think it’s a good way for people to become more aware of the problems and understand the challenges better. Better understanding and awareness are steps to solving the problems. For more information about the tour see their website.

With more help, money and resources more can be done to help the people who need it. Perhaps someday we can provide housing for everyone. If you want to support the effort you can go to the website. Donations are greatly appreciated.

Jim Lade

James (Jim) Lade has worked with the homeless in Toronto and Vancouver Canada. He’s the author of Homeless Harry which is available on Amazon. He’s endeavoring to bring more attention to the homeless situation and encourage ways to help and house these disadvantaged people.

Homeless Taiwan:
homelesstaiwan.org

Another non-profit organization
working with the homeless is
Do you a flavor: doyouaflavor.tw

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