By Ravi Philemon –
Mr Leong Sze Hian wrote an article, 'Homeless family lives in an office' (TOC, 3 June 2012). The article highlighted the case of "David's family of three (who) have been homeless for about a month".
Background on David's family
'David' works as a driver-cum-deliveryman, earning about $1500 per month, and has children from a previous marriage, who do not live with him. From his second marriage to a Vietnamese woman, he now has another child. David was staying in the shelter for over a year, before he left to stay in his office premise with his family.
Not evicted from shelter
Sources who spoke on conditions of anonymity with me said that it is untrue that the family of three was evicted from the shelters. Knowing how most shelters in Singapore work, I know that this is probably true.
When a homeless family gains admission to the shelters, the case managers in these shelters usually advocate for them, requesting HDB to expedite their case. The case managers also work with the extended families of these families in distress, to explore all means of appropriately housing them. In most cases, shelters only discharge homeless families when they have an alternative place to go to (it need not only be because they have been allotted a rental HDB flat).
Placed in queue with shorter waiting time
Through the advocacy of the case managers of the shelter David was in, his family was placed in a HDB rental flat queue with a shorter waiting time, where David would have gotten his rental flat in a few months' time. But David rejected this and reapplied to be placed in a HDB rental flat queue with a longer waiting time. David rejected the queue with shorter waiting time as he felt that the area where he would have been allocated his flat being in this queue, would be too far from his place of work.
Will send wife and child to Vietnam
When the case managers tried to understand why David rejected being placed in a queue for a shorter waiting time for allocation of a rental HDB flat, which was to his advantage, David said that he will send his wife and child to Vietnam, and that he will find temporary accommodation with relatives or friends, while he wait for the rental flat from his preferred area.
It was under such conditions that David was discharged (not evicted) from the shelter.
No to Vietnam
But David had a change of heart about sending his wife and child back to Vietnam. He approached his employer requesting that he stay in the office with his family as he was homeless. it was under such circumstances that 'Amy' the sister of David brought him to see the counsellors at the free financial counselling session.
I tried calling Amy to understand David's predicament better. But after hearing why I had called, Amy hung up the phone on me, and refused to pick up my subsequent calls.
Back in the shelter
After I highlighted to the shelter about the family that was featured in TOC, the shelter took David's family of three back into their transitional shelter. The case managers are again working with David and his family to find an appropriate solution for their housing problem.
Being an activist who works quite a bit with people who are homeless, I know that the first place you should go to when you are homeless (or think you may become homeless soon), is to the Ministry of Community Development Youth and Sports, because the Ministry is best placed to help distressed families with their vast resources.
Families in distress can call the 24-hour hotline 1800-222-0000, if they are unsure about where help is available.