Parliamentary Question: 8 May 2019
Ms Anthea Ong asked the Minister for Social and Family Development (a) what is the total number of shelters in Singapore in 2016, 2017 and 2018; (b) how many residents in total are in transit within these shelters in 2016, 2017 and 2018; © how many of these are displaced families; (d) how many are foreigners; (e) what are the reasons cited for their displacement; and (f) how many displaced does the Ministry estimate to be on the streets in 2016, 2017 and 2018.
Mr Desmond Lee: MSF works closely with government and community agencies, such as HDB and social service agencies to assist homeless families and individuals in need. Some had sold their flats due to debt or divorce before becoming homeless. Others may have homes but are unable to return to them for various reasons, such as conflict with their family members or co-tenants. There are also individuals who are unable to work and have no means of support.
Families and individuals who have homes but who are not able to return to them are referred to MSF-funded Transitional Shelters. These shelters provide temporary accommodation, while social workers work with the families and individuals to address underlying social issues and secure long-term housing arrangements. For individuals who are unable to support themselves and have limited or no family support, long-term residential care and support is provided by our Welfare Homes. These homes help to meet residents’ basic needs, as well as help them improve their emotional and physical well-being through rehabilitation programmes.
Those who are homeless because they experienced family violence at their homes and need a safe place away from the abuse, are referred to MSF-funded Crisis Shelters for temporary safe accommodation. Social workers will work with them to address their safety issues and provide them with counselling and other services.
There are currently three Transitional Shelters and 11 Welfare Homes serving vulnerable groups operated by Voluntary Welfare Organisations with MSF funding. Between 2016 and 2018, MSF provided assistance and support to an average of about 290 individuals per year who were homeless, destitute or sleeping in public places. There are currently four Crisis Shelters, which assisted 190 family violence cases on average each year over the same period.
There was an average of about 180 families in the transitional shelters and crisis shelters in each of the three years. Each year, these shelters also assisted an average of about 60 cases comprising foreigners who sought help on their own or were part of a transnational household.
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~Anthea Ong is a Nominated Member of Parliament. (A Nominated Member of Parliament (NMP) is a Member of the Parliament of Singapore who is appointed by the President. They are not affiliated to any political party and do not represent any constituency. There are currently nine NMPs in Parliament.)
The multi-sector perspective that comes from her ground immersion of 12 years in different capacities helps her translate single-sector issues and ideas across boundaries without alienating any particular community/group. As an entrepreneur and with many years in business leadership, it is innate in her to discuss social issues with the intent of finding solutions, or at least of exploring possibilities. She champions mental health, diversity and inclusion — and volunteerism in Parliament.
She is also an impact entrepreneur/investor and a passionate mental health advocate, especially in workplace wellbeing. She started WorkWell Leaders Workgroup in May 2018 to bring together top leaders (CXOs, Heads of HR/CSR/D&I) of top employers in Singapore (both public and private) to share, discuss and co-create inclusive practices to promote workplace wellbeing. Anthea is also the founder of Hush TeaBar, Singapore’s 1st silent teabar and a social movement that aims to bring silence, self care and social inclusion into every workplace, every community — with a cup of tea. The Hush Experience is completely led by lovingly-trained Deaf facilitators, supported by a team of Persons with Mental Health Issues (PMHIs).