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About 290 homeless, destitute people in Singapore given help each year over last 3 years

About 290 homeless, destitute people in Singapore given help each year over last 3 years

24-hour fast-food outlets, malls and public parks are some of the places where the homeless sleep at night.

SINGAPORE: About 290 people who were homeless, destitute or sleeping rough in Singapore received assistance from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) every year on average between 2016 and 2018.

Minister Desmond Lee provided the figure on Wednesday (May 8) in a written parliamentary reply to Nominated Member of Parliament Anthea Ong. She had asked about the number of displaced people on the streets in 2016, 2017 and 2018, the reasons for that and the number of shelters in Singapore. 

"MSF works closely with government and community agencies, such as HDB and social service agencies to assist homeless families and individuals in need," Mr Lee said.

"Some had sold their flats due to debt or divorce before becoming homeless," he added.

"Others may have homes but are unable to return to them for various reasons, such as conflict with their family members or co-tenants. There are also individuals who are unable to work and have no means of support."

According to the Destitute Persons Act, a person begging in a public place who might be "likely to cause annoyance to persons frequenting the place", or a person in a public place who has "no visible means of subsistence or place of residence" is defined as being destitute.

READ: He's 35 and homeless: Eight years of destitute living

READ: Homeless stereotypes busted: Most hold jobs, have been destitute for over a year


Giving a breakdown of the types of shelters in Singapore, Mr Lee said there are currently four MSF-funded Crisis Shelters in Singapore, which assisted 190 family violence cases on average every year, between 2016 and 2018.

These shelters are for those who are homeless because they experienced family violence and need a safe place away from the abuse.

Social workers will work with them to address their safety issues and provide them with counselling and other services.

Transitional Shelters funded by MSF are for families and people who have homes but cannot return to them for various reasons, said Mr Lee.

The three Transitional Shelters in Singapore provide temporary accommodation, while social workers help those in need to address any underlying social issues and secure long-term housing arrangements.

"For individuals who are unable to support themselves and have limited or no family support, long-term residential care and support is provided by our Welfare Homes," Mr Lee explained. "These homes help to meet residents’ basic needs, as well as help them improve their emotional and physical well-being through rehabilitation programmes."

READ: Acacia welfare home opens new facility in Admiralty for destitute elderly men​​​​​​​

READ: Commentary: The invisibility of the poor in Crazy Rich Hong Kong

There are 11 Welfare Homes in Singapore serving vulnerable groups. The homes are operated by voluntary welfare organisations, with funding from MSF, Mr Lee explained.

"There was an average of about 180 families in the transitional shelters and crisis shelters in each of the three years (2016 to 2018)," Mr Lee said.

"Each year, these shelters also assisted an average of about 60 cases comprising foreigners who sought help on their own or were part of a transnational household."

Source: CNA/mi(gs)


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