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Homeless families who camp by the beach

Question

Mr Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap
MP for Aljunied GRC

To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development

(a) how many families have been identified by the Ministry as homeless and camping by the beach annually between 2010 and 2012; and
(b) whether there are any measures in place to assist these families especially those with young children.

Oral Answer

MSF regularly patrols beaches and public areas to identify and provide assistance to persons who may be homeless. MSF also responds to calls to the ComCare hotline from members of the public who come into contact with Singaporeans who may be homeless.

Between 2011 to 2013, MSF provided support and shelter to 565 individuals and 404 families. About 80% are of low income and have weak social support. Three out of four were previous flat owners who had sold their flats for a variety of reasons, such as settling financial or debt problems, divorces, cashing out to make a profit, etc. After the sale of their flats, they find themselves not being able to afford to buy or rent another flat. Another one-quarter had fallen out their families and friends whom they were living with, due to reasons such as strained relationships, anti-social behaviour or addiction-related problems.

Government agencies do their best to help these individuals and families explore sustainable housing options depending on their circumstances. They may purchase a flat within their means. In other instances, social workers help them to reunite and stay with their family members. For those with no options, HDB will assist them with rental flats under the Public Rental Scheme. For those who need temporary rental accommodation while they wait for or work out their longer-term housing option, HDB may refer them to interim rental housing.

Besides helping them with their housing issues, we also provide financial assistance and social support to enable the families to regain their independence. The support includes help in financial planning and budgeting, job training, employment assistance and relationship management. Efforts are taken to ensure the children continue to attend school and that the safety, welfare and interests of vulnerable family members are taken care of.

One example is a family found at the beach late last year. The couple had with them two daughters aged 18 and 12, and a 2 year old granddaughter. A Family Service Centre helped placed the family into a shelter. The family is progressing well with help from a social worker. The 18 year old daughter has found employment as a food and beverage crew; her younger sister who had dropped out for two years has successfully enrolled back into school; food rations and financial assistance of $600 are being disbursed to the family on a monthly basis. This is an example where a family has made positive steps towards resolving their issues and regaining independence.

Unfortunately, we have also come across families who are not willing to work with Government officials or social workers. A number do not accept alternative accommodation offered to them. They are also unwilling to co-operate and work on their social and domestic issues, or make changes to their lifestyles. Some insist on getting special consideration for housing of their choice.

Homelessness is a complex problem. We want to provide help to families facing housing issues. But there will be little progress if families are unwilling to work with Government officials and social workers to resolve their problems. As much as Government and VWOs can reach out to this group and offer assistance, we need cooperation and positive action on the part of these families to improve their situations.

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