Started in 2005, Home Sweet Home began as a house in Puxi on Hongmei Lu, where homeless and disabled people could get a meal, clean themselves up, and do some training programs. A year later, they moved to Pudong because the neighbors complained.
From there, they again started off as a home, providing basic necessities as well as some training to get people back on their feet. Today, Home Sweet Home has two locations where they run a two-year vocational program and continue their outreach.
Read on to hear about what Home Sweet Home is doing today, the people they help, and how you can get involved.
According to Home Sweet Home's Director, Gerie de Pater, China does have disabled care, but it is mostly provided at the local level. In Shanghai, you must have a Shanghai hukou (household registration) to be able to receive it. Levels of care also depend on the city you are in. If you come from a small village, it isn't going to be great. So a lot of disabled people leave their homes to try to find a better life in the big city. But here it can be extremely difficult for the disabled to get by and they often end up on the streets.
Home Sweet Home works as a nonprofit organization to assist these populations with the ultimate goal of helping them become self-sufficient and reintegrated in society.
Home Sweet Home has a house near the Shanghai Railway Station where they run their outreach program and a second location, a warehouse near the Shanghai Disney Resort in Pudong, where they run their vocational program and produce textile products. Their funding is split between donations and the sales of products made by their trainees.
The outreach program happens on Wednesdays and Saturdays at Home Sweet Home’s house near the Shanghai Railroad Station. There, the homeless are offered a hot meal, showers, and a place to socialize. They can also get clean clothes in exchange for dirty ones, which Home Sweet Home washes and puts out again the next time.
Home Sweet Home gets around 30-35 people each time, and there they recruit trainees for their vocational program.
The two-year vocational program gives the disabled homeless training and work experience so that afterward, they can find a job and become independent. Not everyone can be accepted into the program, as the trainees must be capable of basic jobs and have a shenfenzheng (personal ID card required for work in China).
Trainees are generally 18-40 years old. The men are typically homeless and have a disability, and the women tend to come from orphanages and are often also disabled. Home Sweet Home does an intake three times a year and they usually have around 30 people in the program at a time.
Once accepted into the program, enrollees take a wide range of classes from computer skills and English lessons to life skills and personal development. Part of this experience is learning how to take care of themselves. Trainees are given Shanghai’s minimum wage, which they must spend on food and lodging.
Home Sweet Home runs a small textile factory where the enrollees make products and learn applicable work skills such as sewing, cutting, ironing, and packaging. Home Sweet Home sells these products at markets and directly to companies.
At the end of the vocational program, trainees are required to go out and look for jobs. Most are successful as they now have some savings, the necessary work and life skills, and also two years of work experience on their resume. Still, not all are able to find work due to various prejudices towards the disabled.
How To Get Involved
The simplest way to get involved is to volunteer. Their outreach program that runs twice a week can take up to 4-5 volunteers each time. These can be done as either a one-time or recurring role. English classes are taught on Thursday mornings, and they ask that you sign up for at least a few months for this.
If you work for a major company, consider purchasing bags, custom clothes, or other textile items from Home Sweet Home. They can do all sorts of custom embroidery and various items perfect for an event. A minimum order of 100 pieces is preferable.
Better yet, if your company needs someone to do basic jobs, such as cleaning or answering phones in Chinese, considering hiring a disabled person.
To get involved, email Home Sweet Home at webinfo (at) homesweethome (dot) org (dot) cn.
Home Sweet Home is SmartTicket's charity partner for March 2017. Consider making a 10rmb donation when purchasing a ticket to the many wonderful shows on SmartTicket.cn during checkout.