Story of Brother N on (Im)mobility

Loretta Ho, Urban Nomads, 16/8/2015, Story of the interviewee

Brother N’s wheelchair Photo: Clarence Wai, licensed under a CC BY 4.0 attribution

Our team met a homeless people standing with a pole near to the Tung Chau Street Park entrance. A wheelchair was right next to him, seemingly to stand-by him whenever he feels necessary. He is “Brother N” at the age of 68. “Brother N” was not alone, he was with “Brother J” who is lying on a simple structure made by himself. Our teammate Clarence know them and he started talking about Brother N’s long black pants. After a while, he revealed about the loss of the lower half of left leg, and even showed us by rolling up pant leg and let us had a look of his prosthesis.

“Do you know if any volunteer could help and escort me to a hospital tomorrow?”

Brother N got another injury and he needs to go to the hospital tomorrow. The major purpose is to make an appointment for his next medical checkup. It is an easy task for ordinary people to make an appointment since we could do it via the phone. However, some homeless people does not own a mobile phone and could not do so. Since Brother N is on wheelchair when he travels, it made his journey more difficult.

He asked if we could help tomorrow but we were not sure. We attempted to find other ways if anybody could help. Some non-government organizations (NGOs) provide escorting services for medical consultation. But the focus is for the elderly only, but not for the elderly homeless people. If we couldn’t find any volunteers, then Brother N would be on his own.

“I wish to live in a public housing flat, but …”

Brother N got subsidies from the Social Welfare Department for renting sub-divided housing. Because of his disabilities, he wish to live on the 2/F, but the money is not enough and he could only afford to pay the rent for 4/F or 5/F. It was physically too demanding for him. He chooses to stay in the street.

“I wish to live in a public housing flat, but because his wife and daughter left him many years ago without a proper divorce procedure, it is difficult for me to apply for a public housing flat.” Brother N applied for a separation order in a legal firm for twice, but he hasn’t heard of any reply for two years.

One of the keywords of Brother N’s story to me is “mobility”. His poor physical condition made him become more dependent to others. Because of the low mobility, he stayed on the street so that he could move around relatively easier. However, his homeless status seems to be a barrier for him to apply for other social welfare. The situation is very complex.