THE number of homeless people in Bangkok has increased by 10 per cent compared to last year and the rise has been attributed to restrictive government policies and the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration's (BMA) decision to regulate public space and homeless people.
According to the Issarachon Foundation, which has been helping the homeless, the current figure of homeless in Bangkok is 4,392 people.
Speaking at a seminar to mark World Homeless Day on Oct 10, Issarachon secretary general Atchara Sorawaree said though the number may look trivial, it meant that hundreds more people were living risky lives on the streets after their attempts to solve the problem failed.
"Removing the homeless from streets and placing them in shelters does not solve the problem," she said, referring to an order given by the previous government to the BMA.
The Bangkok Post reported her saying that the City Hall's policy of clearing street vendors and evicting old Bangkok communities were also forcing poor people out of jobs and leaving them vulnerable to homelessness.
"Pavements previously offered a space where poor people could trade. Now, deprived of opportunities to work on streets, they have lost jobs and income. When the government decides to regulate public space and remove vendors from streets, they should also think about the impact on the urban poor who rely on pavement trading."
The government has also been urged to divide homeless people into different groups.
"Not all homeless people want just shelters. Some have severe psychological problems and what they need is psychiatrists, not social workers. Some suffer from income problems and need financial solutions from the government to stand on their feet again," she said.
She added that homeless individuals were sometimes forced to work on the streets to pay off debts or because they needed money to send home.
People commonly assume that all homeless are jobless, whereas in fact 40% have menial jobs as construction workers, security guards or labourers. They mostly work without contracts or steady pay.
The most common occupation for homeless people is collecting and selling recyclable garbage.