Street children are a common sight in every community in the world, whether the country is developed and rich or still developing, where the population is struggling to make a little money to buy food for their children.
Who are these street children, and where do they come from? It’s a difficult question to answer. The Consortium for Street Children reports that as many street children as there are in the world, there are as many reasons for them being there. Every single child has their own unique story. The reasons for their connection to the streets will vary from country to country, city to city, and from person to person.
These factors will also vary over time, such as poverty, displacement due to natural disasters and conflicts, or family breakdown, leading to increases in the number of street children in a given area.
Economic poverty plays a major role, although other factors are of equally high importance. These can include parental deaths, parental neglect and other social factors such as violence and abuse of children at home or within communities.
Discrimination, lack of access to justice, and a lack of legal status (due to a lack of birth registration, for example) all contribute to a child living or working on the street.
The Consortium for Street Children have found that children may migrate to the streets for other reasons as well, including sexual, physical or emotional abuse, urbanisation, HIV / AIDS, being forced into criminal activity, being rejected from their family for so-called “moral” reasons, mental health issues, substance abuse, sexual orientation or gender identity.
While there is no doubt that there are common themes and reasons that push children onto the street, dealing with each child as an individual, with their own backstory and identity, is key to understanding their situation.
In Pattaya, street children roam in practically every part of town. The reasons for them playing, eating and sleeping by the roadside could be for some of the reasons mentioned above or, heaven forbid, all of them.
The situation has become even more acute because of the Covid-19 pandemic, which has devastated the economy. Even middle-income earners and workers have lost their livelihood and drained all their resources that they had so painstakingly put aside for many years.
If, for the past couple of years, normal, hard-working people are left with practically nothing, what happens to men, women and children who were already living in abject poverty?
Residents continuously call the authorities at city hall requesting them to come to their communities to help remove street children who loiter around and have become a nuisance to society through no fault of theirs.
One such case occurred on Jan. 12, when residents found three street urchins loafing around a 7-11 store on Beach Road and, when tired, slept on top of iceboxes in front of a department store.
City hall officials from the Special Task Unit arrived to investigate after being summoned by concerned residents. The officials found the children fast asleep on top of an icebox. They looked so serene and helpless that they did not want to disturb them. But the officers had a job to do. So reluctantly, they woke up the kids to remove them from the public area.
The street children were taken to Bang Hua Tung Community where they were documented and tested for Covid-19 before being delivered to the Children and Family Home in Rong Po Sub-district in North Pattaya, where they will be cared for and given food and lodging.