SEOUL, Dec. 10 (Korea Bizwire) — The escalating COVID-19 crisis is threatening free meal programs for the homeless in Seoul.
The number of homeless people living in Seoul was estimated at 1,229 as of 2018, according to data from the Seoul Metropolitan Government.
Of the total, 498 could afford to stay at temporary protection shelters, while 731 were living on the street. However, the number of facilities providing free meals to homeless people living on the street are still very limited.
In Seoul, the number of such facilities remains low at only seven, consisting of three homeless support centers and four temporary protection shelters.
“Homeless people living on the street have difficulty actually making use of these services, since many free meal programs have been devised for those living at specific facilities,” said Ahn Hyung-jin, an activist in a civic group.
Worse, the spread of the coronavirus makes the operation of free meal programs more difficult, thereby reducing the chances for homeless people to have free meals.
Two private facilities in Seoul have been providing free meals for 200 and 1,000 homeless people, respectively, per week.
In recent days, however, they sharply reduced the number of free meals due to the virus outbreak and the cold weather.
“At present, all of the free meal programs are virtually privately-run. In other words, they could stop operations at any point in time if the COVID-19 situation gets worse,” Ahn added.
Ashley Song (email@example.com)