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December 20, 2012

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Many homeless brave cold, reject shelters

AS Shanghai shivered with the low temperature touching minus 0.3 degrees Celsius in downtown Xujiahui area yesterday, most people snuggled at home to beat the chill.

But there were homeless people curling up in different corners of the city, many rejecting help from rescue stations.

At 9pm Tuesday, Yang Zhengfeng, a staff worker of the Minhang District Rescue Station, again looked for homeless people below the overpass of the Outer Ring Road near Caobao Road. Chilly wind swept past. The mercury was around zero.

"I have come here numerous times," Yang said. Yang and his colleagues walked into the darkness with flashlights, and it did not take long for them to spot the first homeless people.

A temporary shelter was constructed of cardboard, and a man's face was covered deep under nylon bags. He slept there with a thin quilt.

"Come with us to the station. It's very cold here!" Yang said loudly. His persuasive words were met with a resolute "no."

The man in his 30s, from Hubei Province, said he wanted to make a living in the city. He also feared he would be tracked by authorities after leaving his information at the station.

Another man, 46-year-old Wen Diao from Sichuan Province, seemed to be the most cooperative, but he still was dead set against coming to the station. "I don't want to be sent back home," he said.

People staying at district or county shelters will be sent to the Shanghai Rescue Station in Huangpu District after a day or two, and will be given free train tickets to their hometowns.

Wu Zhengmei, another staff worker at the station, said she talked to the homeless a lot as some of them had psychological problems. "Some university students, who failed to find a job, told me they felt extremely bad for slipping into such a situation," she said. Psychological consultation is available.

The Shanghai Rescue Station is warm and there are bedrooms, a canteen and a place to bathe. The homeless can read newspapers, play ping pong, watch television and play cards.

The station has received about 1,300 people since December.

At the station yesterday afternoon, 26 homeless had just been transported to the railway stations with tickets to their hometowns.

Each carried a food package including instant noodles, water and biscuits.

Only 1 or 2 percent of the homeless people at the rescue station are locals.


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