Person A: Oh shit, what about my toilet paper?
Person B: Oh no I can’t go out at leisure to get my bubble tea craving fixed.
But a good number of Singaporeans have more pressing needs on their minds.
Person C: I don’t have a home, so how do I stay at home?
More Homeless S’poreans Found During Circuit Breaker Period But Shelters for Them Are Running out of Space
Mr Vincent Koh, who spoke to The Straits Times, is just one among the many who have not slept in a proper ‘home’ for a long while.
For the past two weeks, Mr Vincent Koh has been sleeping in a shelter that has offered him a roof over his head during the circuit breaker period.
He has slept on an old, thin mattress laid on the floor inside a cubicle “with barely any space left for walking”.
He even said that the mattress that he has slept on is like “popiah skin”, the paper-thin skin of the traditional spring roll snack.
However, he is still grateful that the shelter has provided him with a place to sleep.
Each room is shared by 6 other people, each in a separate cubicle.
However, prior to this arrangement, he had been sleeping on benches at parks and playgrounds after he lost his job as a worker at the Suntec Singapore Convention and Exhibition Centre back in February, and could no longer afford to stay at hostels.
As other Singaporeans stay home during the circuit breaker measures, hundreds have found a place to stay at shelters across Singapore.
However, most of the shelters are struggling to accommodate all the homeless in Singapore which are estimated to include thousands of people.
One Shelter Reached Full Capacity Before Measures Kicked in Last Tuesday
One shelter, Transit Point @ Margaret Drive which is where Mr Koh is residing had reached full capacity even before the safe distancing measures were put into place, said Mr Lim the operations executive.
The shelter was set up by social service agency New Hope Community Services last month and houses 64 people in 15 rooms.
Mr Lim said he has been receiving 20-30 inquiries each day about whether the shelter had any vacancies.
However, it was forced to turn people away as it had reached max capacity.
“Without safe distancing restrictions, the shelter can take in between 80 and 100 rough sleepers because we can put in double-decker beds,” said Mr Lim.
Adding More Bed Space In Shelters
The good news is that the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) have been hard at work and working closely with community partners in the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) network to add more bed spaces in shelters.
Some have even been extending their operations 24/7 in order to ensure that the homeless can stay safe indoors.
On top of that, MSF is also working with the Housing Board and Catholic Welfare Services to set up a temporary shelter to help individuals.
“We will continue to work alongside other government agencies, social service agencies and community partners in the Peers network to open up more spaces for the homeless over the next few weeks, while observing safe distancing measures and the necessary precautionary measures,” said MSF.
Charities Also Helping Out
Charity organisations are also helping out. For instance, Homeless Hearts of Singapore started a City of Refuge appeal to business, religious organisations and individuals to take in the homeless during this time.
An appeal on its website said, “We really need you to open up your empty churches, empty mosques, empty temples, your empty cafes and empty shops, your empty schools, your empty offices, your empty lounges and your empty flats,” read the appeal.
The co-founder of the charity said, “In this time of crisis, where can (the homeless) go? Who can open the doors to them?”
He also said that the City of Refuge appeal was started so that more Singaporeans can step up to help out, and not “outsource everything to the Government”.
You can find out more regarding how to help the homeless in Singapore here.
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