Solving homelessness properlyNew Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon ordered the Korea Railroad Corporation, or Korail, to consider allowing homeless people back into Seoul Station. The order came after Park visited a hospital to pay his respects to a homeless person who died in a subway station.
The state railway operator had begun expelling homeless people from Seoul Station in August, citing safety and sanitation problems from drunken homeless people living in the station. A Seoul mayor must come up with permanent support measures for the homeless to help them find stable shelter and return to society instead of throwing the problem on the railroad operator.
Korail refused to comply, saying that it was the Seoul Metropolitan Government’s responsibility to look after the homeless and that it could not go back to the days when the capital city’s train station was stained by the smell of alcohol, food and litter.
The homeless have been jumping from underground station to underground station in search of shelter after weather turned cold. But they are not demanding to return to Seoul Station because they do not have places to go. There are about 85 welfare centers, including 44 shelters and eight institutions for the homeless. Many of them are empty.
Railroad authorities decided to evict the homeless from Seoul Station because of complaints about drinking, fights, violence and begging. Many homeless people drink in groups in corners of the station from daytime and demand money from passengers.
They dominate the station after dark. A female passenger in her 50s was stabbed by one. This incident led authorities to ban the homeless from staying overnight at the station in August to protect passengers.
The laws on welfare and support for the homeless require the local government to work with the central government to prevent homelessness, protect the rights of the homeless and help them return to society through various training and financial programs.
The mayor should study why the homeless prefer to sleep at the station instead of at shelters and evaluate existing social support programs if he means to help them.