CityU study finds main reason for homelessness is housing affordability

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A city-wide street count by City University of Hong Kong (CityU) found that housing affordability was the main reason for homelessness.


According to Homeless Outreach Population Estimation Hong Kong (H.O.P.E. HK), as of August 2013, there were 1,414 people estimated without a stable or permanent home in Hong Kong. A total of 214 out of 323 respondents (66%) said that they did not have enough income for rent. Other causes directly related to housing and affordability included attempting to save money, the inability to locate housing with affordable rents, and substandard housing conditions.


The street count was organised by CityU’s university-wide volunteer programme, the City-Youth Empowerment Project (CYEP), together with community partners: Society for Community Organization, the Salvation Army, and St James’ Settlement. This is the first time in Hong Kong that community organisations serving the homeless have joined forces with a university service-learning platform to conduct a city-wide homeless street count.


More than 300 students affiliated with CityU participated in the street count on the night of 21 August, which covered close to 180 locations such as night heat shelters and temporary / emergency shelters. Questionnaires and a supplementary observational count at seventy 24-hour chain restaurants in the following week were also conducted.


The findings showed 720 people were homeless. Together with 415 people staying at the shelters and urban hostels, and 279 empty bed spaces, the H.O.P.E street count estimated there were 1,414 people without a stable or permanent home as of August 2013.


The findings further revealed that, contrary to the public image of the homeless, over 40% of the street sleepers are self-supporting through low-paying jobs, and almost half do not rely on social welfare.


Unlike the previous studies, the street count included the age of the respondents. About two-thirds of the homeless were 51 or older, indicating an aging homeless population with challenging prospects for work. One-third of the respondents have serious or chronic health problems, and about one-third are suspected to have substance or alcohol abuse problems.


Ms Constance Ching Wing-lok, Project Supervisor of CYEP, said the H.O.P.E. street count results differ from the figure provided in the Street Sleepers Registry under the Social Welfare Department (SWD) as the registry did not record people who are without a permanent home or stay at temporary shelters and urban hostels. (See table below.) Additionally, the total number of homeless people is believed to be an underestimation given the highly mobile nature of the homeless.


Dr Elaine Au Liu Suk-ching, Project Convener of CYEP, thinks that

homelessness in Hong Kong has been severely under-researched. She added that the H.O.P.E HK street count will lead to a better understanding of the issues related to the problem and make it easier to identify appropriate resources and preventative measures.


The participating organisations believe that additional city-wide street counts should be held regularly in collaboration with community organisations, community volunteers and other multi-party stakeholders. This will provide useful inputs for devising policies to help the homeless.


In addition, the participating organisations have made the following suggestions:

1.      Extend the hostel service for the homeless (from 6 months to at least 3 years)

2.      Set up Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) teams and develop the psychiatric outreach service for the homeless 

3.      Shorten the waiting period of public housing for the single persons

4.      Develop comprehensive policies to address the homelessness issue

Statistics of the Street Sleepers Registry and H.O.P.E HK street count


Homeless Locations



Street Locations (including 24 hour restaurants)






Empty Bed Spaces



Total Number Documented




Notes to editors: The photos will be sent via email.


Filename: Photo-1.jpg

Caption: More than 300 students affiliated with CityU participated in the street count conducted on the night of 21 August.


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Caption: Ms Constance Ching Wing-lok, Project Supervisor of CYEP, CityU


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Caption: Dr Elaine Au Liu Suk-ching, Project Convener of CYEP, CityU


Media enquiries:


Constance Ching, MSW, RSW, Project Supervisor, City-Youth Empowerment Project, Department of Applied Social Studies (Tel: 3442 8974 or 9034 7557  Email:

Yvonne Lee, Communications and Public Relations Office (Tel: 3442 6807 or 6050 2293)


Salvation Army

Choi Ling Ling, RSW, In Charge, Community Project, Integrated Services for Street Sleepers (Tel: 9645 3385  Email:


Society for Community Organization

Ng Wai Tung, RSW, Community Organizer (Tel: 9417 6099 Email:


Integrated Services for Street Sleepers, St. James' Settlement

Wong Hung Sang, RSW, Service Manager (Tel: 2975 8777 Email:

Chan Kam Tim, RSW, Social Worker (Tel: 6975 7394 Email:


To download photo -- (Remark: Copyrights belong to CityU. Use of the photo(s) for purposes other than reporting the captioned news story is restricted.)


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