Social Service Teams to Help Residents in Urban Renewal
The Urban Renewal Authority (URA) has appointed the Salvation
Army and St James' Settlement for the setting up of two urban
renewal social service teams to provide assistance for residents
affected by urban renewal projects in Kowloon West and on Hong Kong
Island respectively from May 2005.
"Social service teams play a very important part in our people-oriented approach during the implementation of urban renewal projects," said Mr. Maurice Lee, Chairman of the URA's Community Affairs and Public Relations Committee that scrutinized and approved the appointment of the two teams.
"The redevelopment of an old residential area inevitably causes changes to the everyday life of the residents affected. Some of them, in particular the elderly, the handicapped, single parents and new immigrants, would welcome a helping hand from social workers professionally trained in handling personal and family problems in these situations," Mr. Lee explained.
In the past three years, the URA has appointed four social service teams to assist the residents in 16 redevelopment projects. The teams handled a total of 1,064 cases.
"The cases are not merely a matter of statistics," Mr. Lee said. "Many of the residents actually become good friends of the social workers as well as the URA's frontline staff who work patiently together to help them settle down in new and better homes and solve the related problems."
"In a people-oriented approach to urban redevelopment, the offering of cash or rehousing compensation to the affected residents must be only the beginning of the story. We have a duty of care in ensuring that the disturbance to their daily life is kept to a minimum and that they will come out better than the experience," he added.
The social service teams are trained to tailor their help to meet the specific needs of the residents. Whilst personal counseling is always important to reduce mental stress, practical assistance is also provided in all sorts of ways such as home hunting, application for mortgage, house moving and home decoration. At times, the more unconventional ways of helping them could involve the locating of long missing relatives, family re-union, caring for pets and even baby-sitting.
Both the Salvation Army and St James' Settlement have a long and proven record of assisting residents affected by redevelopment projects. Whilst their appointments are from the URA, they are nevertheless expected to operate independently and take the care and well-being of the affected residents as their first mandate.
Earlier, the URA has invited submissions from 25 non-government organisations which expressed an interest in operating an urban renewal social service team in Kowloon West and Hong Kong Island. The appointment of the Salvation Army and St James' Settlement were approved by the Community Affairs and Public Relations Committee of the URA Board after careful deliberation. The appointment is for a two-year term.
In addition to the two newly appointed social service teams, a social service team appointed by the URA and operated by the Methodist Centre is currently serving residents affected by redevelopment projects in Wan Chai.