Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Sunday November 19th 2017

Single mum struggles with cost of living and worries about roof over her head

I visited Mdm Siti at her home yesterday morning after her appeal for assistance came a week ago.

It was my first foray into the Boon Lay area and it took me almost an hour to reach the place after a transit stop at Lakeside MRT. Bus 240 came quickly and it was a hassle-free bus ride to the far-away corner at the western end of Singapore.

The extreme sun-soaked weather didn’t help much as I searched for the block grudgingly in the heat – feeling lousy that I didn’t bring along a compensating bottle of cooling water. My work recently involves alot of visitation to the poor and needy to ascertain and verify their request for immediate help.

There is an average of at least a request for financial help daily and we have to turn alot of them away as our resources are truly very limited – in fact for every person whom we help there are at least two or three others that we have to turn away regretfully.

Most approach us for help in the area of payment for accumulated Singapore Power, HDB rental or hospital bills due to various reasons.  Often, the bills come in the amount of few hundred dollars to several thousand and our largest bill for mortgage default is about $30,000!

We access the family need, history and likely will give more priority to families with young kids and living in poor rental units. We also like to assist families whose breadwinner is already working but struggle with the high cost of living here – we know that at least the family is trying their best and sometimes need a helping hand from the community so that they can be on top of things.

My mood changes as I step into the inviting hospitality of Mdm Siti’s place – it was quite a huge 2-bedroom flat probably the biggest I have seen for government housing for the poor. Trust me, I have seen alot recently and the flat size blew my mind off.

It must have being at least 1000 sq ft in size with a cosy nice bedroom tucked away from the living hall and the huge kitchen with a tiolet separated from the bath room. One could have mistaken it for a 3-bedroom resale flat but alas it is a 2-bedroom rental flat of which the owner pays a monthly rent of $230 for it.

The owner is a single mum with primary school education and she has three teenager kids but one has being staying with her ex-husband who has since remarried.

Currently, she works part-time in a poultry stall which pays $8/hour sloughing from 11am to 8pm. The daily wage helps her to manage her expenses especially when it comes to giving pocket money for her teenage school-going kid. The eldest is now serving his national service.

Naturally, she struggles to pay for all her other related bills and confided to me how she fears the day that HDB will repossess her rental flat as she has a accumulated current default of close to $2500 in rental bill.

I assured her that so far in all my years of helping the poor I have not seen anyone being thrown out from their rental flat though they will use all ways to threaten the tenants to pay up like sticking up notices on the door and sending in reminder letters.

However, if she lives in a HDB 3-room or 4-room flat using a bank loan, the chances of an eviction is much higher especially if the mortgage loan accumulates to a unreasonable 5-figure amount.

Unemployment is one of the main reason for such mortgage non-payment as most Singaporeans use their CPF funds to pay for their mortgage repayment and a prolonged period of unemployment is bad news for Singaporean flat-owners with sizeable mortgages.

As for Mdm Siti, she can’t use her CPF to pay for the rental flat and it has to be in cash.

She later shows me her Singapore Power bill of close to $450 and has since negotiated with SP to pay the bill in $50 instalment payment on top of her monthly usage. We have seen many poor families with reduced water supply and black-out some for several weeks before help arrives.

Many are too shy to seek for help or they have asked too often till no one will respond to them anymore…

Its apparent that the single mum is more worried about the HDB rental default for fear that she will end up homeless with her kids and sleep in the street despite my assurance that this is a very remote possibility.

I asked if she has seen her MP for assistance before and she mentions a rather unclear reply – I didn’t pursue the matter further. We sincerely request that all our aid seekers go first to their MP for assistance before they come to us as we want to be the last resort for those who come to us.

I left Mdm Siti’s prized rental property after an hour of visit feeling relieved that at least she is trying her best to stay on top of her situation by taking up the part-time job which pays her $70 cash daily.

Her fixed monthly cost – rental $230 and basic utilities average close to $80 a month. She receives nothing from her ex-husband in terms of maintenance as he himself earns less than $1600/month with his own family now to support.

I am sure that many needy families nowadays live like her – struggling to pay off all kinds of bills and living from hand to mouth in order to survive.

A lack of a minimum wage for our low-end workers means many are paid a miserly salary which looks more like an allowance and in all likelihood they will be unable to manage with our costliest-country-in-the-world expenses.

As for Mdm Siti, her only saving grace is that her teenage kids will finish their schooling soon and go out to work later on ie if nothing goes wrong in between. One is in fact serving his national service now and ready to work after ROD.

There are thousands of such single mum units in Singapore nowadays and often their family situation will breed juvenile delinquency tendency.

A absent father figure and a struggling single mum are probably recipes for deep-seated teenage emotional acne and let’s hope that Mdm Siti’s kids will grow up well.

Her closing statement provided me some comfort: “I want to bring up my kids well despite my poverty…they say they don’t have Ipads and stuff like their friends but I told them that they have a caring mum and a comfortable home that they can come back to.”

I left her home feeling proud that she is putting in her best for the sake of her children.

She needs assistance with her SP and HDB bills as attached – any amount is fine and you can pay directly through any AXS machine or online using the account number attached. Every dollar counts…

Written by: Gilbert Goh

Editor’s note: Someone has just paid $300 and another person the reminder balance of $104 of her SP bill. Another Good Samaritan paid $100 into her HDB rental default.

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One Response to “Single mum struggles with cost of living and worries about roof over her head”

  1. wondering says:

    I’m just thinking, if Mdm Siti earns $70 cash daily, and if she works 5 days a week, that means $1,400 a month. Since one of her kid is now serving the army, that means he’s also receiving allowance, plus free food and lodging. Schooling in Singapore is relatively cheap as its heavily subsidized by our government.

    I’m not saying $1,400 is a lot, especially if the take-home pay is $1,120. Minus away the utilities($80) and rental ($230), she will have $810 a month for groceries and other expenditures. Which is enough to get by if one is thrifty enough.

    So why the default in rentals and utilities? What happen to her wages?

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