Under the Ferry Street flyover in Yau Ma Tei, a couple of ratty mattresses and cardboard boxes make the ‘home’ of a few street sleepers. A stench floats around these temporary houses from the garbage piles. Up the stairs in a 50-year-old tenement building are filthy subdivided flats, housing more people than they are designed to do.
We are accustomed to hearing about the extreme poverty in other countries nowadays because of media coverage, but have you ever realized how much of a need there is just down the block from where we live? People are crammed with endless to-do lists, causing to turn a blind eye to the situations in our society, but if we are able to pause for a moment and put aside some of our busy schedules, we are able to see that there are individuals in our community who are not as fortunate as we are. They are in dire need of our helping hands.
It is no surprise that Hong Kong people frequently hold up “pragmatism” as a core value.
Even though we know that there’s somebody waiting for our help in the society, most of us are unwilling to sacrifice our time on something other than making money or pursuing career. Yet, Jason Hung, the co-founder of Home of Unified Support and Empowerment (H.O.U.S.E.) stands out from the crowd, putting aside “pragmatism” and turning his words into actions.
With different identities of a full-time interior designer, a part-time psychology student and the co-founder of H.O.U.S.E., Jason insists in running the organization, launching new campaigns and arranging homeless visits every week.
One can only wonder: How does he do it at all?
“Make volunteering your priority and you don’t feel like you’re squeezing time to do so,” the young man says. “We all put something we think is important in our top priority.”
The messages he wants to spread is clear—We can’t help everyone, but everyone can help someone. Many little’s make a difference. Established in February 2017, H.O.U.S.E. is a group which emphasizes the idea of care, support and empowerment. It is a platform for kindness and opportunities, gathering strength from people to inspire and encourage each others. One of its main beliefs is that anyone and everyone needs care and support. To care about the others, we can first reach out to our family and friends and then to acquaintances and strangers. Your attitude is the key – whether you are motivated to care about your surroundings.
The group’s target audience varies, ranging from the families with low socio-economic status in Hong Kong, the street sleepers, the elderly to the troubled teens. One of their major work is to visit the homeless frequently.
Skyrocketing rents and squalid conditions in shoebox apartments have pushed more people onto the streets, making street-sleeping an important social issue in Hong Kong. What’s dangerous is that people often have stereotypes and misconceptions on homelessness—drug addicts, mentally-ill, criminals, lazy to work and don’t deserve help.
“You never know the real situation until you step out,” says Jason. “The homeless are normal humans like every one of us. They have their jobs, too. They just cannot even afford the rent for a bed space, let alone a room. Perhaps some of them lack human connection and are disconnected to the society. But it’s not up to one to judge them or think that you are somehow superior to them. Don’t judge a book by its cover.”
Indeed, the misconception about homeless people is dangerous because it creates fear and leads to suggestions that they should all be institutionalized instead of being helped.
Upon organizing the homeless visits, the group realized that the way to solve everybody’s problems is to listen and communicate. Which is why they hold visits and gatherings with the street sleepers frequently. The homeless want to feel the care and love and establish relationships with one another. Human connection is the key.
“Helping the homeless allowed me to learn so many life changing lessons as well,” says Jason. “Money is not the issue. Live a less materialistic life and appreciate what you have.”
It’s never too late to make your words into actions. Offer more care and support to those around you from today. Here is how YOU can make a difference too.
Mid Autumn Festival, the second most important traditional Chinese holiday after Lunar New Year, is approaching. Join H.O.U.S.E. to spread love and joy to the homeless by participating in their mooncake donation campaign. The organisation is going to hand out mooncakes to the homeless in Yau Ma Dei and Jordan on 1st October. You will have a chance to share the festive joy and get in touch with them. Anyone and everyone can join. Not available to join? You can donate mooncakes, in form of whole boxes, individually packed mooncakes or coupons.
Follow HOUSEFORHK on Facebook and Instagram to check their campaigns out.
Online team: Jackson Liu