By SY Lee, Leong Sze Hian and financial counselling volunteers
Jimmy (not his real name), aged 47, came to us for financial counselling at the financial counselling center along with his son who is currently studying in Primary 5. He shared that his family is now facing eviction from the homeless shelter that they are in and the family do not know what to do in their current financial status.
Jimmy’s problems began in 2003 when he was retrenched from his $3,500 job as a technical specialist in a corporatised public agency which deals with port operations. He says that he was replaced by a much cheaper foreign worker.
Since then, he has been struggling to make ends meet, on and off since his retrenchment. His last job was as a prime mover driver with a salary of $1,600.
In March, Jimmy had a stroke which he attributed to the stress given by the Housing Development Board (HDB) and the homeless shelter. He was then hospitalised for about 7 weeks and can hardly walk now, limping step by step with the assistance of a walking stick cum chair.
Since he is unable to work, they are currently surviving on his wife’s take home pay of about $1,040 a month, as a logistics assistant.
Jimmy has been living in his company’s dormitory. It was till his wife from his second marriage obtained the status of permanent resident that his family was given a room in a shared 3-room HDB flat at Chinatown with another family. The rental to the homeless shelter is about $100 plus a month.
His son takes the first MRT train in the morning to his school in Woodlands, from the homeless shelter where Jimmy, his wife and son, have been staying for about 4 years.
His family has been served with an eviction notice from the current homeless shelter due to the maximum occupation period of 4 years. At the same time he is being offered a room in another shared 3-room flat at Sims drive under the Interim Housing Scheme (IHS) at a rental of $300 plus a month.
He tells us that if they pay the proposed rental of $300 plus out from his wife’s take-home pay of $1,040 – they won’t be able to make ends meet. Apart from that, the distance to his son’s primary school would be even longer.
He was seen by a social worker from Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) when he was in the hospital, and he was advised that it would take about 2 months to process his application for financial assistance.
In the meantime, he is in dire straits.
Since the social worker at the hospital waived all his medical fees and also gave him a certificate certifying that he has qualified for free medical treatment (recommended assistance from MediFund: 100%) for the next 6 months – why does it take about another 2 months to assess his application for financial assistance?
We saw a bank passbook in his file and asked if we could take a look. The passbook shows a current balance of only $30 plus and he said he doesn’t know how his family will survive until some financial assistance is approved. Due to his stroke, employment of any kind is impossible.
While looking through the 60 over documents that he brought along with him, a letter of appeal written by his member of parliament (MP) in August 2011 to his former employer, the corporatised public agency was found. The MP had asked if the company could re-hire him but the appeal was rejected in January 2012.
He has since seen 5 to 6 MPs for more than 10 times for his various problems – HDB rental flat, housing, job, etc. However, the family still have not been given any no long term solutions for their woes.
With enough funds in the couple’s CPF account, they successfully applied for a 3-room BTO flat from HDB. But the flat will be only be ready in 2017, 3 years from now. If things remain as it is, his whole family will have to plan how to survive on surviving each month on less than 20 dollars each day after paying for their new $300 rental flat.
We would be grateful if anyone has any suggestions or ideas as to how Jimmy and his family may be helped.
(Image credits – ST)