Fewer homeless families now: MSF

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.”

Homeless seeking rental flat: Half of applicants successful, says MSF

Those who were unsuccessful had other housing options, such as owning or being able to afford a flat, or having family support, said Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim.

  • Posted 01 Mar 2016 15:45

SINGAPORE: The Ministry for Social and Family Development (MSF) provided support and shelter to 543 homeless individuals and 374 homeless families between 2013 and 2015, Parliamentary Secretary for Social and Family Development Muhammad Faishal Ibrahim told Parliament on Tuesday (Mar 1).

Of these, some sold their flat due to debt or divorce, or could not continue staying with their families because of strained relationships or behavioural issues, he noted. Many first approach close relatives or friends to take them in, or rent from the open market, for a few days or up to several months.

Of the cases assisted by MSF, about half applied for a rental flat, of which about half were successful, he told Parliament.

Those who were unsuccessful mostly had other housing options when they applied, such as being able to afford a flat or having family support. Some already owned a flat. MSF, the Housing and Development Board and social service agencies work together to assist these individuals and families to explore alternative housing options, Dr Faishal said.

He added that HDB recognises that families with young children and elderly dependants may have greater needs, and considers their circumstances and exercises flexibility on a case-by-case basis.

“For some families and individuals who have no other place to stay, MSF works with social service agencies to identify temporary shelter options while they find other accommodation. We also address their other needs, which may include counselling, financial assistance, employment and other factors that contribute to their housing instability,” Dr Faishal said.

Government and community agencies such as Social Service Offices, Family Service Centres, and HDB Branches in each town also coordinate identification and support for individuals and families who may be at risk of homelessness, he added. Families which are facing mortgage arrears, for example, may receive a combination of financial help, emotional support, and guidance.

Responding to a question from MP Muhamad Faisal Abdul Manap, Dr Faishal said he was unable to give a projection of the homelessness trend over the next five years, but he gave the assurance that the Ministry will “continue to work closely with HDB and community partners to provide assistance to homeless families and individuals and to help them to regain stability”.