We thank Ms Rachel Tan Wee Cho for her letter (Tackle issue of homeless elderly; Jan 18).
The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) works with community groups and other government agencies to reach out to the people sleeping in public.
The MSF also regularly visits areas which are favoured by people sleeping in public.
Our priority always is to ascertain their situation and address their immediate needs.
This includes providing assistance to improve their family, employment and financial situations, and secure stable housing options.
As Ms Tan mentioned, there are various reasons why individuals sleep on the streets.
For instance, an individual may have a home but is unable or not prepared to return home due to conflict with his or her family members or housemate.
In such cases, social workers will try to mediate and provide counselling so that the individual can return home.
Those who have exhausted all housing options and are in need of immediate accommodation are provided temporary shelter.
For elderly folk who are able to live independently but are unable to afford a purchased flat, social workers assist them to secure stable housing, such as rental flats.
Those who need financial aid may also be eligible for ComCare assistance for their basic needs.
The elderly with physical or mental health conditions, no means of supporting themselves and no family support, and require care for the longer term, could be admitted to residential facilities such as the welfare homes.
Residents in welfare homes receive care and support for their basic needs, and take part in programmes to enhance their functioning and potential for community reintegration.
The welfare homes also involve volunteer groups to conduct recreational activities or to provide befriending services.
We encourage the community to reach out to those in need. If someone appears to be in need of assistance, approach them to understand their situation and offer support where possible.
The public could also call the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000 or advise the person in need to approach the nearest Social Service Office or Family Service Centre.
Kong Kum Peck (Ms)
Director, ComCare and Social Support Division
Social Policy and Services Group
Ministry of Social and Family Development