Support Site for The Unemployed & Underemployed
Saturday April 6th 2019

59-year-old homeless man at Bedok Central pleads for HDB to assist him

We spotted a homeless 59-year-old recently-divorced man at Bedok Central last night in our recee trip. We will usually recee an area first before bringing the main distribution team down one week later to distribute basic essentials like blankets and sleeping bags.

Dressed up neatly in a long-sleeved tee shirt, clean-shaven and eloquent, the homeless man is not the typical smelly shabbily-dressed elderly folks we usually encountered in our 5-month-old homeless project.

Mr Goh’s story rang a familiar note among the many homeless people we came across over our 5-month voluntary work – working with a low income of $1000 plus a month, divorced and unable to afford any alternative housing facility, he has no choice but to sleep in the open. These older Singaporeans rather rough it out in the open than part away with $500 – $700 a month of rent for a room leaving them with nothing much afterwards.

Speaking well in English, he spoke candidly about police checks, frustration with the housing system for the poor and the inept extended family support which is breaking down in a cold fast-paced society. Long gone are the days when you can depend on a family member to house us when we don’t have a place to sleep… nowadays it’s the beach or bench once we leave the family nest.

He spoke about stringent police checks on him when he slept elsewhere – sometimes up to once every three days just because residents have complained about his homelessness. It is an offence to sleep out in the open and one can be hauled to the police station for a vagabond violation or send to a Tembusu Home facility at Sengkang next to IMH.

Moreover, the housing policy of needing another stranger’s name in order to rent a low-cost government flat has also frustrated many further alienating the homeless from the mainstream community. One wonders how many eligible Singaporeans are deprived of a roof over their head just because they could not get someone else to rent a government facility with them.

Mr Goh also spoke of how a social worker from a nearby FSC provides invaluable assistance to him by checking on his progress now and then though he wishes that the authorities can grant him a housing unit as soon as possible.

However, we are glad to report that homelessness is not a huge problem in Bedok compared to many other old estates we have visited – Beach Road, Lavender, Eunos, Chinatown and Bugis. There are also many family service centres dotting the well-serviced estate assisting those who are poor, elderly. and vulnerable and for that we are thankful.

We will recee another area soon for our homeless distribution next weekend. Please join us if you are keen to help us distribute blankets, sleeping bags and goody bags to the homeless folks living among us.

Written by Gilbert Goh

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