There were 1,564 registered rough sleepers last year, which was more than double the 595 people a decade ago.
Homeless residents who spent Tuesday evening at the shelters revealed to the Post that they were offered quilts and two hot meals at the shelter, but there were no signs of festive cheer at the facilities.
Lai Jeh said staff at the Henry G Leong Yau Ma Tei Community Centre had woken her up at 7.10am this morning.
“I had cramps from the cold last night and couldn’t get up. I needed to sit down as I couldn’t reach down to wear my shoes. I got told off by a staff member who chastised me for chatting – I was only asking the old lady next to me if I could borrow a chair,” she said.
“The quilts were heavy but not warm,” she said, adding that she had woken up three times during the night due to the chilly weather and a cramp in her leg.
Other rough sleepers, however, said they were satisfied with the provisions at the shelter and that they would return for Wednesday evening.
A homeless man who gave his surname as Leung said he did not celebrate Lunar New Year, but dashed to the shelter in Yau Ma Tei at 4.30pm on Tuesday after he found out that the cold weather warning had been issued.
“The environment is good here. There’s food, biscuits, cup noodles and hot water,” Leung said. “There were heaters that could be turned on by request.”
But Leung had to leave the shelter for an hour in the afternoon, as it was closed from 4pm to 5pm. He had to wait in the lobby of the community centre before his destination was confirmed for the evening.
Law Chi-wo, a 51-year-old rough sleeper who also took refuge at the Yau Ma Tei shelter on Tuesday, recalled having mixed cuts with rice for dinner and lunch.
“That tasted good, the quilts were warm too. But I couldn’t sleep very well at night. It was too noisy,” Law said.
Over at Wan Chai, a homeless man who gave his name as Giovanni said he saw an improvement in the quality of provisions at the temporary shelter in Wan Chai Activities Centre.
“It used to be very dirty, but there are mattresses and quilts now. It’s a lot better now, [my] basic human rights are fulfilled,” the 42-year-old said.
For the city’s homeless, festive holidays often mean disrupted nights and some found the government’s temporary shelters unappealing.
“Holidays and weekends aren’t something they pay attention to, as they don’t plan ahead and some might not have watches or phones to tell the time,” said Ng Wai-tung, a community organiser at the Society for Community Organisation.
“The reason why temporary shelters are unattractive to the homeless is because they do not open until 4.30pm on the day [the cold weather warning goes up], and there is no guarantee if the shelter will be open the day after,” Ng said, adding that occupants would have to leave the venue by 8am if the cold weather signal was dropped in the morning.
Ng added that the lack of security provisions, such as lockers, also dissuaded rough sleepers, who were worried about their belongings being stolen.
“For the homeless, holidays result in some areas in tourist-heavy districts to be unavailable until after 11pm. Festivities aren’t good news for the homeless,” he said.