One-stop community hub a boost for charities and volunteers

Dental work offered by Willing Hearts is just one of the services available at the new community hub, whose facilities include a soup kitchen and addiction recovery centre.
Dental work offered by Willing Hearts is just one of the services available at the new community hub, whose facilities include a soup kitchen and addiction recovery centre.ST PHOTO: AZIZ HUSSIN

Paya Lebar facility which houses five VWOs to open on Saturday

At one block, rows of old people tuck into steaming plates of rice and mixed vegetables whipped up on the spot by a soup kitchen.

Next door, a support group session for those who struggle with addictions gets under way.

In the opposite building, a group of teenagers sit hunched over piles of aircraft headsets, slotting them into neat packets.

People with different needs can soon get help at the same place, with the launch this Saturday of a community hub in Paya Lebar that brings together five voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs).

Beneficiaries will be able to "shop" for the services they need, be it free legal advice or tuition, within the six-building cluster.

The charities also benefit as they can collaborate more and cut costs by sharing their expertise and facilities, such as a basketball court and football field.

Managed by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), the hub adds to a similar one at Tiong Bahru managed by the National Council of Social Service.

The facility at 11 Jalan Ubi will be launched by Manpower Minister and Marine Parade GRC MP Tan Chuan-Jin, who had pushed for it to be sited in his ward.

It is taking over buildings of the former NorthLight School and Geylang Serai Vocational Training Centre.

Three of the five VWOs - Willing Hearts, The New Charis Mission and We Care Community Services - have already moved in.

Willing Hearts has begun operating a soup kitchen and offering medical and dental services this month; The New Charis Mission is running a halfway house for ex-offenders and We Care is a addiction recovery centre.

The Movement of the Intellectually Disabled of Singapore (Minds) and the Association for Persons with Special Needs (APSN) will move in next year.

Minds will open its largest day activity centre while APSN will be relocating its Centre for Adults from Katong to the Paya Lebar facility.

The MSF, which is funding the renovations of the cluster, has leased the spaces to the groups at discounted rates.

"The space is much cheaper and bigger so we can start new services and expand our existing soup kitchen," said Mr Charles Liew, vice-president of Willing Hearts.

With a bigger kitchen, it can now serve 5,000 meals to the needy a day, up from 3,500.

The charities said there is more synergy when they get together. "We have a multi-purpose hall that can hold 180 people that others can use and, in turn, we can borrow their training rooms if we need them," said Mr Don Wong, executive director of The New Charis Mission.

Said Minds chief executive Keh Eng Song: "I am hoping that our clients can pick up some useful skills by going over to the soup kitchen to help with cooking and packing."

jantai@sph.com.sg

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