Replies: Homelessness

Everyone can play a part to support rough sleepers

I refer to the commentary "Helping the homeless beyond putting a roof over their heads" (Nov 16) by Dr Harry Tan and his team from the Institute of Policy Studies, National University of Singapore.

Indeed, homelessness is not merely a housing issue. Persons sleeping rough often face multiple interconnected issues. Besides housing, some issues rough sleepers contend with may include strained familial relationships, difficulties with employment, mental health conditions or a combination of these factors. We need to tailor our support for each rough sleeper.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) recognises that a whole-of-society approach, focusing on the well-being of rough sleepers, is needed.

This led to the formation of the Peers, or Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers, network in 2019. It formalises the partnership between community groups, social service and government agencies. Since then, the network has almost doubled in size, with 57 partners today, and we continue to welcome new partners.

In many areas, the community takes the lead in the network's efforts and the Government plays a supportive role. For example, some partners serve as befrienders, going on night walks to meet rough sleepers. When they are ready to accept assistance, our partners link them up with my colleagues from the Government to help.

Safe, Sound Sleeping Places is another key initiative in which community partners, including churches, mosques and temples, offer their premises to provide a safe environment for rough sleepers to rest, while exploring longer-term housing arrangements.

Everyone can play a part to support rough sleepers in their journey to overcome homelessness. Whether you are an individual, a community group or a company looking to give back to society, your act of kindness, big or small, will make a positive difference.

If you would like to join us, please contact me or my MSF colleagues. If you come across rough sleepers who may need support and/or shelter, please call the ComCare Hotline on 1800-222-0000, e-mail the Peers Office at msf_peersoffice@msf.gov.sg or submit a request via the Help Neighbour feature on the OneService app.

Eric Chua

Parliamentary Secretary

Ministry of Social and Family Development

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 25, 2021, with the headline 'Everyone can play a part to support rough sleepers'. Subscribe