Thai elderly in yellow aprons fight homelessness on Bangkok streets

Photo courtesy of The Nation

The sight of elderly individuals in yellow aprons diligently cleaning pedestrian flyovers under the pelting sun may be disturbing to many. After all, most Thais have been raised to respect the elders and ensure they are well looked after.

With Jang Wan Kha, or Please Hire Us, boldly written on their aprons, these seasoned citizens are not forgotten souls left to fend for themselves. They are the proud beneficiaries of the Mirror Foundation’s groundbreaking job placement programme for the homeless.

The foundation’s mission is to empower these resilient souls, ensuring they earn at least 500 baht per day. This income not only helps them afford daily sustenance but also sets aside a little for emergencies or medical needs. With the ultimate goal of moving them off the streets, the foundation dreams of providing them with a roof over their heads.

Sitthipol Chuprajong, the driving force behind the Jang Wan Kha project, is rallying for support from government agencies and the private sector. Although the project doesn’t exclusively focus on the elderly, the majority of its participants are 60 or above.

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Of the 160 dedicated workers, 50% are homeless, while the rest are underprivileged Bangkokians with modest rents not exceeding 1,500 baht per month, as revealed by Sitthipol.

These resilient homeless individuals primarily sustain themselves by collecting recyclable waste, some supplemented by a monthly allowance for the elderly, often dining at charity kitchens.

Tailored jobs

Sitthipol emphasises the project’s goal: finding jobs tailored to their abilities, be it cleaning or sorting donated items at the foundation. Participants are divided into groups based on economic needs, working a flexible schedule that suits their situations.

“Some don’t have to pay rent, so we just let them work two days a week.

“Some, however, have nothing at all, so we give them work for five days a week. This way, they can have a better quality of life and eventually have a home to live in.”

However, challenges persist, including resistance to systematic employment and addressing mental health problems or alcoholism. The foundation, committed to holistic well-being, aims to not only meet basic needs but also cater to mental and physical health.

Many participants lack essential identity papers, hindering their access to universal healthcare. Addressing the growing crisis of those in their forties losing jobs and homes, the foundation is exploring more suitable employment options and introducing new training programmes, reported The Nation.

Highlighting the crucial partnership with the Bangkok Metropolitan Administration, Sitthipol asserts that society’s understanding and support are vital.

“The issue of homelessness and elderly people working on the streets will improve if all sectors of society understand them.

“State agencies and the private sector that have funds should support this project, as Mirror Foundation and other such entities have limited resources to tackle this problem effectively.”

Bangkok NewsThailand News

Puntid Tantivangphaisal

Originally from Hong Kong, Puntid moved to Bangkok in 2020 to pursue further studies in translation. She holds a Bachelor's degree in Comparative Literature from the University of Hong Kong. Puntid spent 8 years living in Manchester, UK. Before joining The Thaiger, Puntid has been a freelance translator for 2 years. In her free time, she enjoys swimming and listening to music, as well as writing short fiction and poetry.

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