PAGE?11 »? ‘We set up in 2005, when we had one home in Puxi. The lady who started it up invited people in to get some food, get some clothes, take a shower. A year later we got bigger and moved to Pudong. We currently have about 30 people staying with us.’ ? ‘We basically do three things,’ continued Gerie. ‘We provide houses, training and a job for two years for homeless people. We aim to equip them with skills to help them integrate back into society when they finish the programme.’ ? I asked Gerie about approaching people on the streets, something I imagined had to be done with a certain level of caution and sensitivity. ? ‘We have an outreach programme every Saturday, and we go out several times in the week too. We offer people a place to come and get clean and get some clean clothes and something to eat. Most of the people doing the outreach work have been in the programme themselves, so they often all know each other and can make contact that way. Through doing this, people get to know us. Then we talk to those who are motivated and who might be good candidates for the programme.’ ? I was interested to find out if the number of homeless people in Shanghai was increasing as it is in many places in the West, but Gerie didn’t seem to think so. ? ‘I don’t really see it getting worse. It’s different here from homelessness in the West. It’s much more economical as opposed to drugs and things. Here people come from the countryside to look for a job, they can’t find one, they run out of money and they end up on the streets.’ ? In other words, people come here to make money for their families, and the sad fact is that sometimes it just doesn’t work out that way. ? I read a report a while back where someone stated that people living on the streets often refuse help, which was hard for me to believe, but Gerie confirmed that this is indeed the case. ? ‘We try and give people options by offering a couple of things. We have the outreach and mostly that’s inviting people into the center, but sometimes we just go out with care packages, which is the least ‘threatening’ way to help.’ ? ‘Sometimes people who don’t know you or trust you will refuse. They don’t want it. A lot of people don’t want help because they will make more on the streets than they will here.’ ? I asked Gerie to tell me a little about the backgrounds of the people he deals with everyday, whether they had an education, or perhaps had worked in their previous hometowns. ? ‘Some people here maybe have been disabled from infancy and their parents would have been working in a field - they would typically have low education. Others may have been rejected by their family and had to go to the streets when they were ten or eleven. They also have no education or experience. However, often SHANGHAI247.NET 247TICKETS.CN