Mr Zainal Sapari
MP for Pasir Ris-Punggol GRC
To ask the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what has been the extent of the problem of homelessness in Singapore in the last three years; (b) whether there has been an in-depth study or research done to look into this complex phenomenon; and (c) what are the short-term and long-term plans to minimise the problem of homelessness.
1 Low-income persons who have no family support and cannot afford to purchase a flat, may apply for HDB's public rental housing or may be assisted with Interim Rental Housing. Those who have exhausted all housing options and require social work intervention to address their underlying issues can be admitted to MSF-funded transitional shelters. Individuals who are destitute, with no family support and no means of supporting themselves, may be admitted to welfare homes. Between 2015 and 2017, MSF assisted an average of 385 such cases each year. These include referrals by MSF patrol teams, police officers, or social and healthcare agencies.
2 Besides temporary accommodation, social workers at transitional shelters work with shelter residents to address their underlying issues, such as employment, financial and family issues, and to secure long-term housing arrangements. The welfare homes provide care and rehabilitation programmes for destitute persons to improve their physical and emotional well-being, and where possible re-integrate them into the community again.
3 There are also individuals who have homes but sleep in public for various reasons. For instance, they may have disputes with family members or co-tenants, or wish to be closer to their workplaces due to lack of transport options from home. Most of the persons sleeping in public whom MSF's patrol teams come across fall into these categories.
4 We have found that families in transitional housing often experienced divorce and financial difficulties. Many had sold their flats and spent their monies to clear debts or for other purposes before becoming homeless. It is thus important to provide holistic support and intervention across relevant agencies to address the families' issues.
5 MSF works closely with Government agencies and community partners to address homelessness. A key thrust is upstream support to enable individuals to access and remain in HDB housing. We are strengthening inter-agency coordination with HDB, social service agencies and community groups to do this. As family conflict and stresses are often linked to homelessness, social workers play an important role in addressing the root causes. MSF will also continue to review and enhance the effectiveness of the shelter models to help homeless families and individuals regain stability and access stable housing. Members of the public can play a part by offering help to homeless individuals they encounter. They can call the ComCare hotline at 1800 222 0000, or approach the nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre for assistance.