Wing, 36, who does not want to disclose his full name, sleeps outside Tsim Sha Tsui’s Cultural Centre. On a bitterly cold day, he cheerfully shares his story with Varsity in the warmth of the Cultural Centre lobby. Meanwhile some volunteers are giving out hot drinks and food to the other homeless who are here to shelter from the cold.
Wing has lived in two temporary shelters before, but decided to settle on the street instead. “There is no freedom inside Phoenix House,” Wing says. Phoenix House is a half-way house for those discharged from detention centres and training centres. According to Wing, there are many restrictions. For instance, residents must write a report if they return to the house later than 9 pm.
Another reason he stays on the street is for the company. Wing met his girlfriend a year ago on the street. He is estranged from his family and considers his girlfriend to be his family now. Wing says being with his girlfriend is more important than anything else.
“Many people ask me why I don’t sleep at temporary cold shelters…[it’s] because my girlfriend and I would have to be separated,” Wing says, adding that sleeping on the street is the best option for them, at least, for now.
Like Ah Ji, Wing is also a casual worker. He has worked as an extra and bit-part actor in TVB dramas and several movies, and as a street performer. When Varsity first visited him, Wing was planning to become a fortune teller in Mong Kok. But he explained his difficulties. “I don’t have tables or seats. There’s no way I can ask someone to kneel down and play tarot cards.”
He has tried to apply for funds from non-governmental organisations to start his business, such as the Community Chest Rainbow Fund. However, the fund aims to provide grants for families or individuals with imminent survival needs, so Wing was unsuccessful.
Other than the Rainbow Fund, Wing has also applied to the Community Care Fund and is waiting to hear back. However, he is reluctant to apply for the Comprehensive Social Security Assistance Scheme (CSSA) which can provide a single person HK$2,255 a month.
“Applying for CSSA is troublesome, I’d need to gather all kinds of information…fill the application form, explain why I was rejected from the jobs I’ve applied for before,” Wing says.
Research carried out by the City University of Hong Kong reveals that over one third of the homeless surveyed think the application procedures for benefits are complicated or hard to understand. As a result they either do not apply for or fail in their applications.
For Wing, there was good news after he met a social worker intern who bought him a table and chairs set, allowing him to set up business as a tarot-card reader. He got off to a good start, earning around HK$2,000 on the first two days of the Chinese New Year holiday.