Ravi Philemon

“Meet Singapore’s Nomad Families”, a recent Sunday Times article welcomes the average Singaporean. Homelessness is a major issue in all large cities. The numbers of homeless people worldwide have grown steadily in recent years. A recent estimate states that there are 100 million people worldwide who are homeless. Although the homeless are often “hidden” in a society like Singapore, Singapore is by no means exempted from this worldwide dilemma.

To be sure, a homeless person obviously needs a home. But such a simple observation overlooks the reason why the homeless have no home. Simply demanding more housing for the homeless is like saying that a person with a fever can be cured with a cold bath to bring down the temperature and ignoring the infection causing the fever.

People who are homeless are so for various reasons. Some have made poor choices in life, some are involved with alcohol or drugs, yet others are part of the system of generational poverty in which inadequate life skills are handed down from one generation to the next, resulting in an entire culture of people who do not know how to take advantage of the educational, cultural or employment advantages available to them. Some of the homeless are also those who may have had some education, a job and a place to live, but without a “safety net” of family or friends to help them through a difficult time, found themselves evicted from their homes after they lost their job or had a financial crisis. But whatever the circumstances, homelessness is but the symptom of root problems.

In addressing the problem of homelessness, the focus has to shift from emergency shelters to prevention. Emergency shelters should only be temporary and transitional solutions, to provide a safe housing environment in the interim. The different agencies who want to focus their resources on preventive efforts should:

1. Involve local governments; because the homeless usually qualify for various kinds of public assistance. Voluntary Welfare Organizations need to be involved in coordinating services and referring clients to various programs.

2. Encourage retraining and upgrading; because the workers in the low-income bracket are the most vulnerable to be homeless. As such, they should upgrade and/or retrain, so that they can develop marketable skills to take on and succeed in new, higher value-added, and emerging jobs in the knowledge based economy.

3. Enhance families’ capacity to help them; policies and programs should aim to support and supplement family functioning. Wherever possible, policies and programs should encourage and reinforce marital, parental, and even extended family commitment and stability.

4. Create awareness; about services available for the “at-risk” group among mainstream service providers like schools, utilities suppliers, banks, religious institutions, etc.

5. Launch Public Education campaigns; through public service advertising to modify public attitudes and to promote responsible home ownership, to encourage homeowners and homebuyers to seek housing counseling.

6. Consider forming an inter-agency coordinating body; to coordinate between all the relevant players who are involved in prevention of homelessness (e.g. shelters, Voluntary Welfare Organizations, schools, religious institutions, government, etc). This inter-agency will do a “gap-analysis” to determine the character of the homeless and potentially homeless in the community, the services most in need and how best to provide these services in a coordinated manner.

The problem of homelessness is very complex and simple solutions are often not available in trying to address this dilemma. It is precisely because simple solutions are not available that different agencies with various expertises in service must work together. Long-term plans must be developed not to manage, but to end homelessness.


About the author:

Ravi Philemon is TOC’s new writer. He serves in a community services agency serving the homeless in Singapore. He recently returned from the United States, where he worked in a directorial position for a faith-based community outreach service, serving the homeless.


Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
You May Also Like

35 new cases of COVID-19 infection in S’pore; 29 locally transmitted cases, 17 unlinked

As of Sunday noon (22 Aug), the Ministry of Health (MOH) has…

PV chief Lim Tean: People must move from the notion that there can only be two-party system in Parliament

People must move from the notion that there can only be a…

泰国法院指证据充足 爱国党命运3月7日定案

泰国宪法法院下周四(3月7日)裁定,是否解散泰国爱国党。 宪法法院指出,法院认为选委会做出的解散爱国党申请证据充足,无需进一步调查,一次将在下个月7日开庭审案,并且在同一天宣布判决。 亲泰国前首相他信的爱国党于2月8日宣布,提名泰国公主乌汶叨参与首相竞选,引起轩然大波。泰王于同一天表示反对公主参政,并表示皇室地位超越政治。选委会随后宣布乌汶叨公主不具备参选资格,更指爱国党此举有违反君主制,违反宪法,因此申请解散爱国党。 大选后决定是否提空塔纳通 另外,泰国间房指出,将在3月24日泰国大选后,于3月26日决定是否提空另一位政党党魁,即未来前进党党魁塔纳通。塔纳通被控违反电脑犯罪法,涉嫌于去年6月29日,在社交媒体脸书散布有关泰国军人政府的假消息。一同被控的还有两名党员。 塔纳通昨日(2月27日)遭检察官传召问话后,怒斥对手企图耍阴招。他表示该党无畏阻挡,将继续前进。“我们相信自己的清白,也相信人民的力量。” 塔纳通是泰国最大汽车零件制造上,高峰集团的执行副总裁兼董事,与去年3月设立了未来前进党,打开了泰国政坛新局面。 塔纳通在竞选活动的政策辩论上,表现出色。他所提出的政策和帅气的外表,为他吸引了不少支持者,更成为年轻选民的追随者。自竞选活动开跑以来,他就不断的批评泰国军方的开销,以及泰国自从武装部队总司令巴育就任后,就陷入了独裁主义者的手中。 巴育不参加政策辩论 相反的,巴育于周二(2月26日)指出,他将不会参加任何政策辩论,不是因为害怕人民批评,而是因为他的工作很忙,辩论使他感到“头痛和浪费时间”。 泰国大选落于3月24日,选举委员会将首度举办辩论会,让候选人们能够发表各自的施政理念。多名候选人呼吁巴育参与辩论,而公民力量党作为提名巴育的政党则指出,巴育目前仍然是公仆,必须保持政治立场中立,因此向选委会申请,让巴育不用参与辩论。 巴育于26日内阁会议后的记者会上,未等选委会决定,就已经宣布不会参与辩论。

LTA and e2i signs MoU to develop local rail industry workforce, rail industry looking to increase engineers by 50%

Transport Minister Khaw Boon Wan said that rail companies are looking to…