On 9 March we reported that “A homeless pregnant mother was taken to hospital” after sleeping several nights at the Occupy SWD camp with a dozen protesters. Following that blog the Social Welfare Department (“SWD”) swung into action and ISS-HK case worker Helen Lee asked Mrs. Lama, “Why did you complain to Vision First?”
Yesterday at 21:35 we received this text message from Mrs. Lama, “My landlord again lock the door. Just now we r back to home…..we go to see the doctor for baby n afternoon our case officer ask 1 agency to show us room … we see every room but only one too small ….so we reject…..i have so much pain….n baby also not feel well!”
On 10 March, Helen Lee secured a guesthouse for Mrs. Lama’s husband and 18 month-old Immanuel. When the mother was discharged she joined them there for one night. Then Helen Lee negotiated with their previous landlord to allow them back into their room for a few nights.
The ISS contract signed on 10 March states, “My monthly rent should not exceed Pending. I confirm my address to be at 306 Shanghai Street, Yau Ma Tei”. Helen Lee visited the room twice and is fully aware it is a temporary arrangement occasionally paid for by a friend, not by ISS-HK.
While conducting oversight of ISS-HK’s operations, SWD should not be fooled. Pending indicates ISS-HK does not pay rent assistance. Adding addresses evidently misleads SWD into believing that refugees are settled, when actually homeless. Further, one wonders why Immanuel is not included in the contract.
When forced to sign a deceptive contract, Mrs. Lama questioned Helen Lee, “For what you put the address in the contract? If you do not put the money, why you write the address?” ISS-HK appears not to provide a fair and frank account of the grim refugee housing to Hong Kong government.
The SWD should ensure that when ISS-HK does not pay rent assistance, this should be clearly stated and no address shown on contracts. In such cases, refugees are shifting abode nightly at the whim of friends and supporters, effectively enduring a state of semi-homelessness.
Mrs. Lama is sick and should be admitted to hospital for observation, according Vision First director Doctor Tsang. Last night at the protest camp, Mrs. Lama explained, “I cannot go to hospital. My family is homeless, we are suffering. I only live because of Immanuel, otherwise I would take poison!”
It is crystal clear that Helen Lee failed to comprehend this family’s plight. Mrs. Lama complained, “I am homeless because of ISS. Helen offered 4500$ but we cannot find anything to rent for that price. Helen give me too much problem. She never want to support us. We have to sell our food because she never give us money to take the bus. Helen is not pregnant, is not jobless, is not sick … she can go, but we cannot go (flat hunting)!”
Helen failed to assist an extremely vulnerable family that is again homeless. Mrs. Lama, holding her aching abdomen, lamented, “I was going to Queen Elizabeth Hospital this evening because too much pain, all day too much pain, but I cannot go. My son is too much hungry. He take the shoes and eating … We have no option. We are suffering too much. I am going to be mad. I don’t know what to do now. I think it is better to die.”
The SWD stated they rarely receive complaints. They are invited to the protest camp under the Head Office if they genuinely care for refugees. Mrs. Lama complained, “Maybe Helen thinks that refugees can sleep anywhere because we are helpless. We are human beings, she should not treat us like animals. My heart is in too much pain because of Helen. Too much stress because of her.”
Vision First stands shoulder to shoulder with suffering refugees. We will support Mrs. Lama until she receives the full assistance she is entitled to. This courageous pregnant mother warned, “Until Helen finds me a room, I will not leave the camp. I will not go to hospital, even if I have too much pain and the doctor know it. If anything happens to me Helen Lee is responsible. She will have to pay. She must be responsible.”