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Number of homeless centers to double
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11:13, September 13, 2008

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The number of child protection centers in China will be doubled to 300 by 2010, an official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs has said.

Gao Yueling, head of the ministry's social affairs department, said 152 centers have been built since a 1.12 billion yuan ($164 million) program was launched in 2006. By 2010, there will be 300 of them serving 150,000 homeless children a year in prefecture-level cities and large counties across the country.

Many of the centers will be built in the east of the country, as it attracts the most migrants from the country's poor regions, Gao said last week.

"The centers are designed to get homeless children off the streets," she said.

They will ensure the youngsters (aged up to 18) have a place to sleep and are regularly fed, she said.

"The children are welcome to stay until they are reunited with their parents."

While at the protection centers, children will also receive free education and vocational training to prepare them for adult life, Gao said.

Some centers will also employ "parents" to take care of the children, while other youngsters are found temporary homes with local families, she said.

Women with children who have been abused by their husbands can also stay at the centers, she said.

Gao said a national relief system aimed at helping vagrants, both adults and children, was set up in August 2003, following a scandal in which Sun Zhigang, a native of Hubei province and a worker at a garment company in Guangdong province, was beaten to death by eight patients at a penitentiary hospital just hours after being arrested as a vagrant for not carrying his ID.

Under the system, adult vagrants can apply for free board and lodging for up to 10 days at relief stations, she said.

In that time, local civil affairs bureaus, which oversee the stations, will help people to make contact with their families and will also pay for their bus or train ticket home.

Before the system was set up, homeless people were subject to the old system of "compulsory custody and repatriation", under which police had to jail vagrants and beggars, and send them back to their hometowns, Gao said.

"The establishment of the new relief system is a major step forward for human rights protection in China."

As of March of this year, the system had helped 588,500 street children nationwide, she said.

"Most of them left home because of poverty, improper parenting, or because they were trafficked," she said.

Source:China Daily

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