Brad Bowyer, a political activist, recently shared an encounter he had with an elderly Singaporean citizen, Mr Lim Kee Khoon, who has called the Henderson Hawker Centre home for the past two months.
In a Facebook post published on 20 March, Mr Bowyer recounted the troubles Mr Lim has faced which forced him into homelessness. The 70-year old man is a victim of “poorly conceived rules” and “institutionalised and systematic neglect”, said Mr Bowyer.
Mr Lim used to live in a rental flat which he was forced to share with another elderly gentlemen that he didn’t know. This flat mate had also suffered a stroke earlier in his life which left him partially disabled. This means Mr Lim became his de facto caretaker, having to shoulder the extra financial burden. No one stepped in to help.
Mr Bowyer described how Mr Lim committed a crime out of stress and financial desperation which landed him in prison at the age of 63. He was sentenced to 10 year in jail but was released early at aged 70 for good behaviour. Unfortunately, Mr Lim now has nowhere to go which is why he’s sleeping at the hawker centre.
Mr Bowyer noted that there was a HDB rule preventing Mr Lim and his brother from renting a flat together. He wrote, “his [Mr Lim’s] brother had sold a flat 8 years ago and apparently in this case you must wait 10 years before you are eligible to rent and without this he would be forced once again to live with someone he does not know and even that is slow coming.”
Further down, Mr Bowyer highlighted how Mr Lim’s cries for help to the Tanjung Pagar MP Joan Pereira and HDB were left unanswered.
Mr Bowyer said, “From what he described everyone keeps quoting rules of why this or that can’t happen, there is nothing they can do or bouncing him from person to person and MP to agency while nothing is being done. It seems adhering rigidly to a system is more important than a member of the Pioneer generations urgent need, and the lack of humanity and basic care is staggering.”
Referring to Ms Pereira he said, “I know Joan Pereira personally from my time with Tanjong Pagar GRC, she is a kind and caring person, and yet this is happening in her ward and there is seemingly nothing she can do about it?”
In response to this story gaining traction on social media, the HDB come out to make some clarifications on the matter. They said the allegations made by Mr Bowyer that various public agencies have no offered Mr Lim any help were ‘untrue’.
In their post, HDB said that they and MSF Singapore’s Social Service Office have been in touch with mr Lim since January 2019 to understand his situation. They also noted receiving appeals from MP Joan Pereira – on 1 and 19 March – on behalf of Mr Lim for his rental application.
HDB said that they had initially advised Mr Lim and his brother on their options, saying they could purchase a 2-room Flexi flat using the ‘significant cash and CPF proceeds’ from the sale of his previous flat. They also denied the existing of a 10-year waiting period as alleged by Mr Bowyer.
HDB went on to say that when Mr Lim and his brother showed they were unable to purchase a flat, the Board offered them a rental instead. They say they are currently processing the documents.
As for the help from SSO, the statement indicated that Mr Lim recently agreed to receive help from an SSO Officer after declining the offer several times. HDB says Mr Lim has since been admitted into a shelter while waiting to move into a rental flat with his brother.
Ms Pereira shared HDB’s post and reiterated HDB’s stance that various government agencies have been in touch with Mr Lim to offer assistance.
In a written signed document that TOC obtained, Mr Lim endorsed the facts of the case himself, in line with everything Mr Bowyer presented in his Facebook post including the fact that offers of help have borne no fruit and that he refused to stay in a shelter that the SSO offered. Mr Lim said that the reason he refused admission into a shelter was because he didn’t want to get into bad company.
Mr Bowyer said in his post that he is worried Mr Lim would be forced into taking another rash action he doesn’t get the appropriate help soon. “Mr Lim has paid for his crime, one that our system indirectly forced him in to, and if it does not reach out to him soon, I am worried he will be forced in to taking another rash action again to survive,” said Mr Bowyer.
He also raised the question of why Mr Lim was forced to live with a stranger in the first place which led to this downward spiral in his golden years.
He said, “Why don’t we give them dignity and privacy especially as many are in hard times now precisely because they sacrificed in their younger days to help build our nation.”