I refer to the article “Extraordinary People: A friend to the homeless” (Channel NewsAsia, Sep 24).
It states that “Today, their informal volunteer group, known as the Homeless Hearts of Singapore, has about 10 regulars who gather every fortnight to seek out and visit their homeless friends.”
A friend told me that he searched “homeless” at leongszehian.com and returned 53 results. So, it seems that I have written about 53 articles about the homeless or the housing problems of Singaporeans over the last six years or so.
For example – you may like to read one of the articles “HDB’s response to homeless story” (theonlinecitizen, Mar 6, 2014) – here’s a brief extract:
“In this connection, in the spirit of “(not) create an atmosphere of confusion and mistrust” – we would like to suggest that the HDB make regular periodic disclosure of the following statistics:
- The number of HDB households in arrears for more than 3 months on their HDB concessionary loans?
- The number of HDB flats compulsorily acquired?
- The number of HDB in arrears that had to be sold in the open market?
- The number of HDB bank loans in arrears?
- The number of HDB bank loans foreclosed?
- The number of HDB bank loans in arrears that had to be sold in the open market?
- The breakdown of the costs of building HDB flats?” You may also like to read “HDB: 18 appeals and still homeless” (Jun 11, 2011).
As to “There is more to it than just helping them get a place to stay,” he added. “There is good welfare in Singapore available for the homeless, but sometimes there is quite a lot of waiting needed, and that really discourages them” – I understand that there is a long waiting list for HDB one and 2-room rental flats and the homeless shelters run by Voluntary Welfare Organisations (VWOs) are always full.
Even when one is admitted to a homeless shelter – I understand that the stay is temporary subject to periodic review, up to a maximum of normally not more than two years.
According to the Department of Statistics’ Monthly Digest of Statistics – there were 648 residents in Sheltered Homes, as of the second quarter of 2017.
In this connection, according to the article “WhyItMatters – A fresh look at homelessness (Straits Times, Feb 8, 2017) – “Last year, 176 homeless individuals were admitted into these places.
Certainly, more shelter beds are needed. While 467 families and 233 individuals were admitted into the shelters in the past four years, the current three government-funded shelters can accommodate only about 150 families”.
So, if we count those who were not admitted to the shelters, those admitted but were told to leave eventually and became homeless again, etc – how many homeless people are there in total in Singapore?
With regard to “Uncle Lawrence says he has been on the streets for about ten years now, and home for him is currently a bus stop in the Marina Bay area.
He is 63, he says with a rueful smile: “Old man already” – the problem for the homeless who are alone, may be that they have to find another single Singaporean person of the same sex, and their combined household income must not be more than $1,500 a month, in order to apply for a one-room HDB rental flat, which is the cheapest form of housing in Singapore.
In respect of “Looking ahead, Abraham has one simple goal in mind for his group: To make the Homeless Hearts of Singapore obsolete.
“We want to use this group to act as an incubator for those who want to start their own homeless outreach,” he said, highlighting a church group who approached him looking to learn from them.
“We helped where we could, and gave them on the ground experience,” he said. “And it was really such a joy when they said they were officially starting their own homeless outreach in the East.”
“We want to share the vision, share the dream, and inspire people to make a difference in their own neighbourhood”” – it would seem that as long as you have the desire to help the homeless – they can be easily found in Singapore.
Leong Sze Hian