Homelessness has become a growing concern in Singapore, as the Covid-19 pandemic has forced more people to sleep on the streets.
Yesterday (3 Dec), it was reported that homeless shelters across the country are almost full, and that 100 people are on the waiting list.
Over a week ago, an article from Malaysian news outlet New Straits Times (NST) claimed that Malaysians working in Singapore had been affected by the pandemic too, particularly border restrictions.
This, a source told them, led to over 100 Malaysians becoming homeless.
The Ministry of Manpower, however, strongly disputes this claim.
MOM: No M’sian Workers Were Sleeping Rough While Working in S’pore
In fact, the ministry has asserted that no work pass holders have been found sleeping rough here, contrary to the report.
NST’s main source, Shahruddin Haeal Helmy Mohd Noh, works at a beverage company in Singapore.
He was the one who claimed over 100 Malaysians had become homeless during the Covid-19 pandemic, as they could not afford to rent a room or a bed.
NST also said that hundreds of Malaysians working in Singapore “had to live like vagrants following the Covid-19 pandemic”.
However, when MOM contacted Shahruddin on 23 and 27 Nov, he couldn’t provide any information to substantiate his claims, such as specific names and contact details of the homeless Malaysian workers he claimed to have come across.
As a matter of fact, MOM soon discovered that he never even spoke to them.
“He admitted that he never spoke directly to any of these workers and cannot confirm if they were indeed homeless,” MOM said.
“He did not know of any Malaysian worker who does not have a place to stay and also stated that he did not tell the reporter from NST that ‘over 100 Malaysians there had become homeless’.”
NST, however, quoted him as saying so. So, what really happened?
Despite Shahruddin’s admission, an Inter-Agency Taskforce that conducts routine checks around the country visited various locations on the night on 26 Nov, including places Shahruddin had listed, to investigate his claims.
But they found no work pass holders sleeping rough.
MOM said that anyone found sleeping in the open, including work pass holders, are given assistance.
Moreover, their employer will be asked to provide lodging immediately, and if they are unable to do so, they will be given temporary shelter at the Migrant Workers’ Centre (MWC).
The ministry has also established links with various non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to refer any homeless work pass holders.
“In the past few months, MOM has not received any referrals from the NGOs,” the ministry said.
Why Has the Pandemic Exacerbated Homelessness?
As to why the Covid-19 pandemic has made homelessness worse, there are two main reasons.
For one, people who lost their jobs or could no longer afford to pay rent may have been forced to sleep on the streets.
Secondly, it has made life unbearable for people who were already homeless, as areas where homeless people used to sleep, such as void decks and commercial buildings, became closed to the public during the circuit breaker.
This is much worse than it sounds, because homeless people not only lost their sleeping areas, they didn’t even have a place to sit or rest.
At the moment, homeless shelters are bursting at the seams due to an increased demand.
This is why the authorities are working to increase the number of shelter spaces for those sleeping rough.
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