The story where an elderly Singaporean citizen, Mr Lim Kee Khoon, had to sleep at the Henderson Hawker Centre home for the two months, had a most-welcomed development this week after the Housing Development Board granted approval for him and his brother to jointly stay in a rental flat.
Mr Lim’s story was earlier raised by Mr Brad Bowyer, a political activist, in a Facebook post published on 20 March. In his post, 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 Lim was then forced to resort to work as a drug courier because of financial desperation, as he could not take up any other job due to the care-taking that he had to do.
He was sentenced to 10 year in jail at the age of 63 but was released early at aged 70 for good behaviour.
After being released from prison, he tried to apply for a rental flat with his brother. However, as Mr Lim’s brother had sold a flat 8 years ago and the officers whom Mr Lim spoke with said that his brother has to wait till 10 years before he is eligible to rent with him.
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.”
Rebuttal from HDB and PAP MP
After Mr Bowyer’s post was published, HDB made clarifications on Mr Lim’s story, saying that 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.
Account from Mr Bowyer accurate and Mr Lim swears upon it
However, TOC recently met up with Mr Lim and verified the story with him. Mr Lim said that he was told to seek shelter at a halfway house but he rejected the offer. He said to TOC that he does not want to get back into bad company again and want to get back to normal life.
He shared that he was being passed from one agency to another and eventually had to seek shelter at the market and got goodwill assistance from members of public who pitied him.
He even showed a copy of a statement which he signed on to prove that Mr Bowyer said was accurate and true.
Regardless, his application to share a rental flat has since been processed with the help of a Mr Yip Kum Fei from HDB and his team.
According to Mr Bowyer who just visited Mr Lim, the flat has been freshly renovated. Social services are assisting them with some income and finding furniture.
Mr Lim’s brother is working as a cleaner and he is starting work Monday. As for Mr Lim, he is helping at the market and appears to be excited and happy.
Mr Lim said to TOC in the previous meet up that all the help he needs from the government is to have a roof over his head so that he can concentrate on working to make ends meet.Mr Bowyer said in response to TOC’s query, “Certainly they were both very smily unlike before so talked a lot and sometimes hard to catch.”
He added, “I would like to thank everyone who made an effort for Mr Lim. It shows we can do it with the proper leadership. I hope everyone learns from this and it doesn’t need social media prompting but that all concerned start proactively assisting those in need.”