Fewer homeless families are being picked up by the authorities. Last year, 93 families were admitted to shelters, compared with 144 in 2013.
In contrast, 71 homeless individuals moved into transitional shelters, compared with 49 in 2013. Another 105 were sent to welfare homes last year.
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said there are fewer homeless families now, as efforts have been made in recent years to ensure those in financial and housing difficulties are referred early to family service centres (FSCs) for help.
Associate Professor Irene Ng, from the National University of Singapore’s (NUS) social work department, said households have also benefited from adjustments to housing policy.
“In the past, the problem of homeless families was partly due to some overstretching themselves to own a flat and having to sell it when in financial difficulty,” said Prof Ng.
“This issue is being addressed with refinements in HDB criteria as well as the development of interim rental housing for families.”
NUS sociologist Tan Ern Ser agreed that families have more housing options now.
“Perhaps family units are more likely to be given priority with rental housing,” he said.
“Also, they may be less choosy when offered shelter or interim housing, as this would be in the best interest of young children.”
There are three government- funded shelters that allow people to stay for up to six months for as low as $50 a month.
Places in these shelters – which can accommodate about 150 families – are reserved for those who have exhausted all means of accommodation and need immediate housing assistance, said MSF.
Those who do not qualify or cannot wait for a place in a shelter can apply for the Housing Board’s interim rental scheme, which costs about a few hundred dollars a month for a room. They can also try to rent on the open market.
Homeless individuals tend to be older, have health conditions and lack any means of supporting themselves or their families.
They are often admitted to welfare homes, said MSF.
To help homeless people, the Government works with social service and community agencies to address underlying issues, providing employment assistance, counselling or childcare referrals.
MSF said it works closely with FSCs and HDB branches in each town to identify and support those at risk.
Its spokesman said: “As we strive to provide support to the needy in our community, we are also mindful that some prefer to be self-reliant and decline assistance.”