The government has allocated 1.12 billion yuan ($145 million) to set up more than 350 shelters for homeless children in cities and counties by 2010, a senior civil affairs official said Tuesday.
"The move is expected to substantially cut the number of homeless young people on the streets," Xu Xiuling, a director of finance and accounting department of the Ministry of Civil Affairs, said.
There are currently about 130 shelters offering support to more than 110,000 homeless juveniles each year.
However, the facilities available are grossly inadequate as the number is only one-tenth the number of young vagrants on the street, National Development and Reform Commission deputy chief Zhang Mao was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency earlier.
In recent years, hundreds of children have been trafficked to work in illegal coal mines and to cities for forced labor or organized begging.
In the new 280 centers in cities and about 70 in counties, 35,000 beds will be added to cater to more than 500,000 a year. The centers will be equipped with about 350 cars to transport children across regions or provinces.
The move is part of 5.65 billion yuan ($733 million) to be spent on three projects, said Xu. The other two are for building children welfare institutions and community service systems.
The amount spent by the central government on civil affairs projects is unprecedented, the director said.
Of the total budget, 1.6 billion yuan ($213 million) is from the central government, 1.33 billion yuan ($177 million) from the ministry and the rest from local governments, Xu said.
"These plans will play an important role in improving infrastructure and service facilities," Li Liguo, vice-minister of civil affairs, told Xinhua.
By the end of 2006, about 45,000 orphans - 10 percent of the total - were housed in 249 welfare institutions.