It is often said that Hong Kong is a city of extremes, and this is certainly true when it comes to housing. For many of the city’s wealthiest residents, home is a mansion with an expansive view overlooking Victoria Peak, but for some of the poorest, home is a metal cage.
Skyrocketing house prices have forced more than 200,000 people to live in what the Government calls “inadequate housing”, including cubicle apartments and cage homes – wire mesh hutches stacked on top of each other.
Small doesn’t quite cut it when describing these unbelievable living spaces. Apartments already limited in space are sub-divided using metal cages, prone to rusting, or wooden boxes with a shocking likeness to coffins, which cost around $1,800 per month to rent.
With barely enough space to sit up, and around 30 units squeezed into tiny apartment spaces, the lack of privacy is just the start of the struggle for these residents. Illness spreads like wildfire, safety regulations are nil, and dwellers share basic, unhygienic facilities. It is unthinkable that people live in these decrepit conditions for years, sometimes decades, whilst the downtown skyscrapers continue to pop up like glittering displays of wealth and prosperity.
With no government-led changes on the near horizon, one group of Hong Kongers have taken matters into their own hands.
This Saturday, 20 volunteers from Hong Kong’s humanitarian movement, ImpactHK, will be handing out over $10,000 worth of food vouchers, as well as fruit, snacks, and drinks to the residents of Sham Shui Po’s caged and coffin homes. Led by school teacher and passionate campaigner Jeff Rotmeyer, the group hope to directly help the cage home community and raise awareness of this growing social issue in Hong Kong.
“The caged and coffin homes are a black mark on Hong Kong’s society,” Rotmeyer tells Localiiz, “I think many are appalled that some people have no choice but to live in a cage.”
There is a growing movement to help Hong Kong’s homeless population, and ImpactHK organises regular events to deliver donations to those in need, drawing in ever-increasing numbers of volunteers. Unfortunately, those living in caged and coffin homes are much less accessible, and as a result less thought of.
“The last thing the landlords want is attention being brought to the unsanitary and criminal living conditions that they provide,” Rotmeyer explains.
ImpactHK was created to promote the concept of doing good deeds for others and to show how easy it is to make a difference. Having received a huge outpouring of interest and opinions when this visit was announced, it certainly seems the message is spreading.
“One thing is for sure, there are many people in Hong Kong who care about the less fortunate, and those living these deplorable spaces,” says Rotmeyer. “It’s amazing to see so many considerate and compassionate people coming together to help make a difference.”
With a focus on consideration and respect, Saturday’s visit will be capped at 20 people, and led by an NGO which the caged home dwellers are familiar with. However, if you would like to make a donation for this handout, please send a message through the Guest Room’s Facebook page. All of your donations will go into the hands of those in need.
Read more! Discover the astonishing reality of homelessness in Hong Kong in “I’m Livin’ It”, Homeless Under the Golden Arches or Prosperity and Poverty: The Stark Reality of Housing for Hong Kong’s Have Nots.