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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Phnom Penh tackles homeless problem, but no end

Phnom Penh tackles homeless problem, but no end

More than 900 homeless people have been retrained by the Ministry of Social Affairs

and returned to their home towns, but others have simply taken their place on the

streets.

Lim Beng Huo, Director of the Kalab Bei Vocational Training Center in Stung Meanchey

district on the capital's outskirts, said 932 people had completed the center's programs

and been sent back to their home towns in Svay Reng, Prey Veng, Takeo and Kandal

provinces.

Two hundred others were currently working their way through the programs.

However, Phnom Penh Municipal Governor Chea Sophara said more people had arrived

to sleep on the city's streets.

"I have been sending these homeless people back to their home towns, but they

still keep coming back to Phnom Penh so this is a complex problem.

"We have commissioned NGO's to help these people, and I have distributed blankets

to them," he added.

Nou Sameth, Deputy Chief of Cabinet for Phnom Penh, continued in a similar vein.

"We have distributed blankets to the homeless people in Phnom Penh, but not

all of them. We have given a small number of them to people who've done some work

for us, like cleaning the entire city for the coming millennium."

"As for those who did not labor for us, we have talked to the district leaders

to see what they have done for the rest of the people who are now living under trees

or around the park land surrounding Wat Botum."

According to a 1999 UNICEF report received by the NGO Friends, which works with street

children, there are 20,000 homeless in Phnom Penh.

Chea Soun, of the Ministry of Social Affairs, said: "This is the first time

that we have helped to train the people so they might have their own professional

skills for the future."

Regarding the arrival of new homeless people, he said the ministry would simply have

to send them all to training centers.

However, he said the long-term solution would be to promote development in the provinces.

"If we don't want to see any more homeless in the city, we need to have real

development in the rural areas." Soun said.

The Kalab Bei training program, sponsored by UNICEF and the Royal Government, began

on November 1, 1999 in an effort to clear people off the streets for the new year.

Lim Beng Huo, of the Vocational Training Center, said this was not the first attempt

to train the homeless. In 1995 a similar initiative was sponsored by the NGO Taipei

Overseas Peace Service (TOPS) .

Twelve groups of people were trained for three or four months at a time until the

program stopped last year when the contract ran out, he said.

The new Kalab Bei center was free and offered courses in agriculture, sewing, weaving,

dessert-making and bicycle maintenance.

When people finished the training courses, they were given US$36 and some equipment

for farming.

Huo said the people now sleeping on the roadside were not the same people who had

trained at the center. They had arrived recently and he hoped they too would be sent

to the center.

"We will continue to do the training until there are no homeless in Phnom Penh,"

Huo said.

Mon Kry, 50, a farmer from Prey Veng, said she had been at Kalab Bei for a month

and wanted to return to her home town to start a business and did not want to come

back to Phnom Penh.

Aouth Yath, a 27-year-old farmer from Kandal province, who is married with two children,

came to Phnom Penh and worked as a construction worker making 6000-7000R per day.

Currently at the center, she is very happy she is now learning new skills and looks

forward to starting a business back home.

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