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Residents of tiny houses in HCM City have big hearts

Update: May, 29/2018 - 07:00
A 7.5sq.m house, home to 12 people, in District 1 downtown HCM City. — Photo
Viet Nam News

HCM CITY — HCM City has an abundance of tiny houses.

Huỳnh Thị Tuyết’s house in Gò Vấp District is one of those houses. In a total area of 8sq.m, the 65-year-old woman lives with her 15 children and grandchildren.

Tuyết used to have it better. But after her husband died, she had to sell her house and live on the street.

The area where her house is now located used to be a cemetery. Feeling sorry for Tuyết and her children, a resident decided to exhume the corpses of their relatives and give Tuyết the 8sq.m where the tombs were placed.    

Life is not easy for Tuyết, who makes VNĐ60,000-80,000 (US$2.6-3.5) per day peeling 15-20kg of onions. 

“Sometimes I wish we had a bigger place,” she said. “But I think we’re still lucky, considering there are a lot of homeless people out there.”

Most of the tiny houses in the city are occupied by low-income labourers. But this type of house is not only present in poor districts but also in the downtown area, where land prices can be astronomical.

The 7.5sq.m house of Trần Thị H on Nguyễn Trãi Street in District 1 is home to 12 people, including H, her grandmother, parents, children and grandchildren.

Despite having added two mezzanines, there never seems to be enough space for all of them to sleep at night, and they have to lie close to one another like “canned sardines”.

“During mealtimes, it has become our habit to take one bowl of food each, then go out into an alley and eat it there,” H said.

“Having enough space to gather and have a family meal feels like a distant dream,” she said.

Alleys seem to be the ideal place to keep everything that does not fit in the tiny houses. Alley No 115 on Nguyễn Du Street in District 1 is where residents leave their motorbikes and household appliances and hang their clothes since there is no space for them in their 5-7sq.m houses.

Living in a limited space seems to draw people closer together, literally and figuratively.

When a 34-year-old man living in Alley No 79 in Nguyễn Trãi Street suddenly passed away at the beginning of May and left behind his 74-year-old mother, wife and three kids, his neighbours voluntarily took charge of his funeral.

They cooked all the food and prepared all materials for the funeral at their houses because there was no space in his house after his coffin and altar were put in.

“Most of us are low-income labourers, but we respect and help each other whenever we can,” said a 50-year-old resident named Hồng.

“Here, you help someone one day, and they return the favour when you are in need. We all do that,” she added.

Robberies rarely happen, despite all the assets left in the alley, said a 60-year-old resident.

“We watch out for each other,” she said. “I’ve been living here for dozens of years but never seen any motorbike theft, even before the security cameras were installed.” — VNS

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