A Fictional Home
What we have long perceived as a home is one with walls to protect people from within. However, without a rent control, the financially insecure homeless, in the face of high rents, can only afford to live in poor conditions in both Hong Kong and Taiwan. Undoubtedly, there are walls at their home. But the walls come with stuffy rooms, bad ventilation, piercing noises as well as sufferings from lice, bugs and mice. Sitting up straight is not even an option, let alone a single bathroom or a kitchen.
The homeless believe that they can put on their pajamas and have a restful sleep after moving away from the street. Yet, what creep in are more challenges and the vicious cycle of sleeping around.
Hong Kong has ranked as the most expensive housing market on Earth. Despite it's glamour and prosperity, many people unable to afford basic rent are forced to sleep on the streets. /Photo: LEI Jih-sheng
Ding overstayed in Australia for 10 years and was repatriated to Hong Kong. A social worker met him in a fast food restaurant in 2018 and introduced him to the cleaner job. He loves his work, but he loves gambling more. Surprisingly, the little garret he recently stayed costs him $2,500 to rent. /Photo: LEI Jih-sheng
In the past seven years, Zheng would be found in the Yuexiu Park in San Po Kong. He had to report to to a cleansing plumber job in Jordan even though his blood pressure reached 200... He is now 62 years old and is only willing to be hospitalized because of increasing headache and feet pain. /Photo: LEI Jih-sheng
Keung, who once lived in the Cheng ping Street Tunnel, in 2015, the government dumped all his personal belongings... Recently, Keung rented a bed for $1885 on Shanghai Street. When he cannot fall asleep because of raft, he will go to fast food restaurant and continue to sleep through the nights. /Photo: LEI Jih-sheng
A rental residence of an ex-homeless person in Taoyuan. /Photo: Ching-Wei LIN
Daily Life of old Garcia
Written/Photo by Ching-Wei LIN / Translation by Li-Yi Chen
Old Garcia had been roaming around all by himself and went aboard as a sailor at a very young age. In the past two years, he had become thinner, and slimmer and more defined face slimmer made him look tougher and more weathered. When I went taking his pictures that day, he suggested a few poses and shots that I could use, but I told him to just be himself; I wanted pictures with him in his natural surroundings every day.
Then I walked with him from his place in Wanhua District to the Taipei main station area. We walked and talked along the way, ate lunch together and sat at a McDonald’s, waiting to see if his friend, Mr. Airplane, would show up in the neighborhood to sell The Big Issue at 2 or 3 pm; he wanted to go for a chat. He told me about his past, loaded with stories I’d never heard before, and his perspectives about where he lived, about love and marriage, and how he almost became the “president” on paper in a scam. His place was on the third floor of an old apartment building. There was a big hole on the wall of his room, which he covered with cheap aluminum backsplash stickers commonly found in the kitchen. However, he was content. He couldn’t pay more rent anyways because of the high living cost in Taipei. He could get by as long as he could watch things on his tablet every day.
He appeared to be at peace with his conditions, but I still sensed a bit of sadness on his face during a part of the photo session, which he didn’t normally show. I didn’t ask him why. What could I do anyway if I did get an answer? Isn’t this the way life was?