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State support increased for rough sleepers

The government is strengthening measures for homeless people and rough sleepers to help them support themselves and earn a living.

The Ministry of Health and Welfare on Tuesday announced a set of guidelines to help the rehabilitation of people who sleep on the streets and lodge at state-run shelters.

The ministry will provide around-the-clock care and accommodation through 74 shelters nationwide, 25 public healthcare centers and 58 pharmacies, as well as five counseling centers in Seoul.

More shelters and lease apartments will be established for those willing to rehabilitate and start making a living afresh. “Social enterprises” such as the Big Issue, a magazine sold by the homeless; Hope Bicycles, a bicycle repair organization run by the homeless; and three other companies will be subsidized by the ministry. The authorities will also support Rep. Ryu Jae-jung, who has submitted a relevant bill to the National Assembly.

The moves came after media reports of deaths of rough sleepers during the record-breaking cold spell that swept the nation in December and January. There are 3,074 people staying at shelters, while 1,241 sleep on the streets, of which two died of the cold earlier in January.

Welfare Minister Chin Soo-hee on Tuesday visited Seoul Station in central Seoul, where more than 150 rough sleepers stay in underground shopping areas, waiting rooms and bus stations nearby. She also visited a soup kitchen and a free human science class designed to teach them hope and broaden their perspectives.

“The best solution to the problem is to help them adjust to ordinary lives once more. We will also try to prevent these people from starving and dying,” Chin said.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)
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