As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take its toll on the economy and society, 21 temporary homeless shelters in Singapore are nearing full capacity, with close to 100 people on the waiting list.
According to an article by The Straits Time (ST) on Thursday (3 Dec), the space scarcity in the shelters is mainly due to increasing demand as well as reducing number of Safe Sound Sleeping Places (S3Ps).
For those who are unaware, these S3Ps are operated by several community and religious groups, which voluntarily open up their premises as a short-term sanctuary to those who are in need of a roof over their heads.
Times were tough during the coronavirus outbreak, particular during the circuit breaker period when non-essential services were halted. Many on the streets – who normally spend their nights at void decks or even their workplaces – were asked to seek refuge at a shelter due to safety measures.
Not forgetting, a handful of them became homeless due to the travel restrictions. Those who hail from Johor or Batam were unable to commute to and fro for work, leaving them stranded in Singapore having to spend their nights sleeping in the rough.
“The economic downturn has also contributed to the number of homeless individuals, who may face the loss of jobs and may no longer be able to afford open market rental rates, as well as tensions between families or co-tenants,” said a spokesman from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), as cited by ST.
“S3Ps are temporary interim accommodation run by community partners who have availed their premises, mostly in religious premises, to provide overnight stay for rough sleepers out of goodwill,” added the MSF spokesman.
Before the circuit breaker came into force in April, there were only seven S3Ps.
The two-month circuit breaker period saw an increase in S3Ps, with over 40 shelters operating at that time. Unfortunately, nearly half of them had to close their doors as they needed to resumed their primary operations, among other reasons.
The MSF spokesman told ST that at the moment there are 21 S3Ps in operation – which can house about 560 individuals – though most of these spaces have been taken up.
What’s more, it is said that there were about 100 people on the waiting list as of mid-November.
The MSF spokesman explained that the remaining vacancies in the S3Ps are for people pending admission, among other things.