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In the summer, street children can sleep almost anywhere - often in one of Ulaanbaatar's many parks, or in the doorways of buildings. In winter, the temperature can drop to -40 degrees Celsius, so the children must find somewhere warmer to spend the night.

Some children sleep in the stairwells of apartment buildings. Others sneak onto trains and hide in the luggage racks, taking care that the ticket collectors don't see them. The last resort, for those who can't find an empty apartment building and aren't clever enough to hide from the train guards, is to sleep in the underground tunnels which carry the city's heating.

In Mongolia's main cities, most apartment buildings are centrally heated, using hot water piped from the power stations on the city outskirts. The hot water pipes travel above the ground until they reach the city, but once in the city, they travel underground in tunnels. Manholes give access to the pipes so workmen can fix any leaks and adjust the flow of water.

The children use these manholes too. They climb down into the inspection chamber under the manhole and put planks or sheets of cardboard on top of the pipes to make a narrow platform. Here they sleep, cook, eat and shelter from the cold. Below the pipes is a two or three-metre drop to the bottom of the tunnel. This becomes their rubbish bin - and their toilet. The holes are dark, cramped and filthy. They stink. There is a constant danger that the pipes may burst, spraying the children with scalding water. Still, they are warm, and for some children, these tunnels are the only home they have.



Why Street Children | Why do they come to the Streets
Where do they Sleep | How do they Live