the new face of shenzhen homelessness?

Yesterday evening, I walked from the Peninsula housing estate along Wanghai Road, which winds around the back of Shekou Mountain through a new section of reclaimed land. I passed the walled off and abandoned construction site in the bit of land that belongs to the military policy (武警) and paused to look at the remaining  fishing boats and tangled nets that hug the remaining bit of coast, before making a left onto Houhai Road. After 8 p.m., small trucks are permitted on Houhai Road, and a line of pick up trucks backed up from the new coastline all the way to Old Shekou Road at the Shekou Oil Depot. Dirt filled the open backs and floated into the air, as the trucks trundled into a new reclamation area. I also saw a family living in a van. The lettering on the outer body of the van announced small repairs, however, the sliding side door was opened to reveal a makeshift bed, a mother rocking a child, and a man fixing an appliance of some kind. It’s not uncommon for neidi wives and children to join working husbands on construction sites, however, this was the first time that I have seen the interior of a service car remodeled for family life. So it seems that Shenzhen’s homeless are paradoxically richer because they have a car and tools for making a living and yet more isolated because the more “traditional” — if I can use the term — Shenzhen homeless families squatted in tent settlements under lychee trees, or more recently have occupied the edges of the reclamation projects, which of course, is where my walk began.

2 thoughts on “the new face of shenzhen homelessness?

    • Hi Lee,
      What struck me about the family living in a van was the new forms of homelessness in Shenzhen. It is no longer possible to be visibly homeless in much of the city. Previously, for example, the homeless, squatted in tent settlements at the edges of construction sites; workers and their families build more stable settlements on the construction sites themselves. Importantly, as the core of the city solidifies, these options are less viable, and more likely outside the old second line. I am now wondering how the van families actually inhabit Shenzhen. There are public restrooms, but no public wells or spigots as there once were in the villages and construction sites, respectively. Moreover, in tent settlements there was enough land for makeshift stoves to be built. In other words, although the van families may own means of production, it is unclear to me what kind of residential life is possible.

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