Broken Dreams of Beijing's Homeless


"I had a terrible fate in Beijing."

Pedestrians wrap coats more tight as a winter wind chills a traffic-clogged road in Beijing's Xizhimen area. And under the road, homeless people are sitting in the "bed", smoking after wandering city streets in the daytime.

Among the homeless is a 47-year-old man called Ai Yaode in his dialect. He sits in his “bed” between two suitcases brought from his hometown- Shaoyang, Hunan Province, the middle province in southern China in 2014. The suitcases contain something he needs.

Ai gets up in the morning at 6 regularly, for the security guards will drive him away if late. He spends daytime in the Kaide Mall near Xizhimen and eats leftovers in the restaurants there for his living. For the money needed to buy necessities, he sells plastic bottles and scrap metal collected from trash bins but not very often.

“I had a terrible fate, starting from Beijing Station in 2014.” Ai said calmly, “I was fooled into a company by a stranger and served as a security guard in a primary school, but we had a contract dispute and I lost the job.”

Jiang Xiaojun, from Liaotong, Inner Mongolia. He has been sleeping on the souterrain for one and half a year. There are 8 people in his family including uncles. Before he came to Beijing, he said he was a shop keeper but he believed Beijing is better. He claimed his job here was a builder, however, the overloaded work stressed out him so much. He quitted it. He lost his ID card but didn't want to resubmit the ID registration because it has trouble for him. The security guards ignored him when he said he had no ID card.

Though the homeless of Beijing looks controlled well, there are some jobless

It is officially estimate in 2003 that the average number of homeless in the entire municipal Beijing was 10000. And in 2010, the census revealed the number was about 2300, quoted from the rescue center of Beijing. "There are three main groups of homeless in Beijing." Said Fan Yinhua, the principal of an NGO called “Aid on the streets”, which has been helping the homeless in Beijing since 2011. “Mentally disabled, the jobless and protesters”. “Aid on the streets” was organized by a professor of Chinese Academy of Science, appealing volunteers from society to help homeless in China. Fan said now the number was less than 2000, but it is still not positive. “You hardly find homeless in the central Beijing, because they were just expelled to the countryside. ” When asked about how many jobless there among the homeless, Fan told, “ None one counted the number, but I think the protesters come the biggest, the jobless can be about 1/4 of the homeless we can find on the streets.”

Lao Zhu from Liaoning Province, came to Beijing in 2016. He told that his first job was collecting rubbish on the streets for a rubbish transfer station, but he has trouble with his feet and stammers so he lost his job soon. Zhu has been sleeping on the station since then. He had no phone and no contact with his family or friend. He said he would rather stay in the station because it's easy to get food and money. Some NGO helped him but he didn't want to go to shelter because of his trouble of feet.

What's the future of the jobless?

Yaode is one of many ambitious homeless people in Beijing: They came to big city themselves in the hope of improving their family situation but failed. Urbanization developed rapidly in the past ten years in China, which has caused massive rural-to-urban migration where people travel to larger cities to find work. However, most of them were not well-educated and some even disabled or elderly, so it was difficult for them to keep pace with development and they just lost their jobs. Most of the homeless lost their ID card so they couldn’t find another job.

However, there has been policy issued in 2016 that helps the homeless can easily remake a new ID card in the police station, but opinions from homeless are different: Some said they wouldn’t go for it because they prefer to stay in Beijing as going home may lose face because of failure. Some hold that they were never told how and where to register to make a new ID card, and many also explained they didn’t know the policy at all and sometimes living without ID card can be at ease because the security guard just ignored them.

The social security system is of great importance, and creating more job opportunities in rural areas seems very necessary while the economy develops so rapidly. Most homeless like Ai Yaode, are from poor remote areas in the hope of improving living situation, this is their only dreams. Perhaps Guangzhou’s solution may be a inspiration for Beijing temporary: the government employ some homeless as social workers to help others.