PAGE?10 ANNA BENNETT HOME sweet home IN THE HEIGHT OF THE SHANGHAI SUMMER, temperatures reach upwards of 40 degrees and being outside is pretty unbearable. The winter months have reported lows of -6 and are equally as hostile. Living in a city with such extremes makes leaving the house a challenge for everyone. E y ability to run for cover if the weather isn’t just right is a choice that over a million people living in the city don’t have; I can seek refuge in a place that I call home. ? Although it’s pretty hard to find recent official figures, a report from the Ministry of Civil Affairs released in 2008 stated that there were an estimated 1.7 million ‘homeless and beggars’ in Shanghai, 188,000 of whom were under 18. There’s no denying that the number is alarmingly high, so what is being done about this growing problem? It seems that it’s an issue the government is slow to get its head around. Until 2003, the official government policy was to detain homeless people, many of whom come from rural areas, and send them back to their hometowns. Although there are now shelters being built, relocation remains the focus of official efforts to deal with the problem. Charities and NGOs that offer different solutions are emerging, however. ? A month ago I visited Home Sweet Home, one such organization that not only serves as a shelter for homeless and disabled people, but also provides a two-year programme which teaches life and trade skills and offers counseling to its participants. I was greeted by Gerie De Pater, the man responsible for the day-to-day running of things. ? We walked in to what felt a little like a hostel and passed a number of staff working away on computers. It turned out that these were people currently on the programme who, instead of learning factory skills like many other participants, opted to focus on office work. ? Gerie and I sat in his office and discussed how the charity started. » M SHANGHAI247.NET 247TICKETS.CN