About 1,000 homeless people live on Singapore’s streets: Study
SINGAPORE: About 1,000 people live on the streets of Singapore, according to the first study done here to measure the scale of homelessness.
The highest levels of homelessness were reported in Bedok, Kallang and in the City, with each district having more than 50 people on the streets, according to the study which was led by Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.
Fewer than 10 homeless people were observed in Bukit Panjang, Sembawang and Sengkang.
The study found that 87 per cent of the homeless people were men. About half of the total were judged to be in their 50s or older. Approximately a third were either separated, divorced or widowed, with a similar number who were single.
In the report, Homeless In Singapore: Results From A Nationwide Street Count, Asst Prof Ng said: “Despite growing public attention in recent years, the size of the homeless population in Singapore has always been unknown.”
Measuring homelessness in a systematic and transparent way enables the researchers to provide guidance for policy and service planning, he said.
Street counts like this should be conducted every few years to provide timely guidance for policy and service planning, he added.
The study focused on street homelessness, about which there is a lack of information, the report said. Other types of homelessness include living in temporary accommodation or moving frequently because permanent housing is not available.
WHY ARE THEY HOMELESS?
Almost half of the homeless people interviewed – 47 per cent – cited unemployment, irregular work and low wages as reasons for their situation.
About 37 per cent gave family conflict and break-ups as a reason, while 27 per cent said they had housing problems such as an inability to pay rent and mortgages or that they had sold their housing.
About 40 per cent of the homeless people interviewed stated that they had housing registered under their name. Fifteen per cent said they had public rental flats, while 11 per cent had purchased HDB flats. Others mentioned having a hostel place or a residence overseas.
Some of them said they could think of safer places to sleep such as with friends, family or at their workplaces, but said they did not do so due to family conflict, not wanting to inconvenience friends, problems getting along with co-tenants, or wanting to be near the workplace.
“These responses show that actual access to better housing options is often hindered by practical and social barriers,” Dr Ng said.
HOW THE STUDY WAS DONE
Asst Prof Ng led a team of 480 fieldworkers which included representatives from more than 20 non-governmental organisations and members of the public. All fieldworkers had to attend training prior to participating in the counts.
Together, they covered all 12,000 blocks of residential flats and other public and commercial spaces over a period of three months this year. The map of Singapore was divided into 298 zones grouped into 25 districts. Most of the zones were in public housing estates, where each zone covered about 50 blocks of flats.
These zones also included public facilities and commercial spaces. In the city and other non-residential areas, zones were demarcated so that each zone would take around two hours to cover on foot.
The volunteers recorded the numbers of individuals who were asleep or going to sleep in public spaces, with some evidence – like bedding and belongings – that they are homeless. The volunteers started their count at 11.30pm or later.