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Hotline a fresh step to assist city vagrants

China Daily

SHANGHAI: The city government has launched a hotline number in a bid to better assist Shanghai's vagrants.

And citizens are also being urged to call so they can suggest ways that the nation's biggest city can tackle vagrancy.

Since Friday, people have been able to call 021-52901111 to report any beggars or vagrants on the city's streets.

Once a call is received, the Shanghai City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Bureau will get its district Urban Administration and Supervision Unit to send staff members to the site.

"We can then see if they need the government's help or not. If so, we will send them to the district aid station," said Wen Wenjie, an official with the Zhabei District Urban Administration and Supervision Unit.

"If they are not willing to receive help, there is little we can do. We cannot force them to an aid station."

People can get free food, lodging and medical attention for 10 days after arriving at an aid station. They are also offered a ticket free of charge for a train or bus back to their hometown.

Since January, Wen's team and colleagues from around the city have had the added responsibility of attempting to get beggars to attend aid stations, instead of roaming the streets.

"But almost all beggars prefer to stay on the streets, where they can make money," he said.

Liu Weiguang, a spokesman with the Shanghai City Appearance and Environmental Sanitation Bureau, agreed, saying many people actually viewed begging as a way to make good money and that they show no inclination of taking up regular employment.
The city's press has reported about a begging "industry" that revolves around children. Using handicapped kids, or even worse  disfiguring healthy children  has become a profitable business.

Some have been lured away from their families and villages with promises of a "better life" in a big city, but they end up falling prey to the ringleaders of beggar or criminal groups.

Liu said the hotline aims to encourage people to help the government resolve the issue, especially making the government better informed about the number of beggars and their geographic distribution.

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