Forum: Current approach to helping rough sleepers the way to go

Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from the National University of Singapore's Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy said public benches with dividers or metal bars on them, among other things, are prime examples of urban features that are "defensive" or "hostile" towards the homeless (Bars, dividers make spaces less welcome to homeless: Observers, Nov 30).

He added that the effect of such designs is to deny homeless people a safe and sheltered place to lie down and rest.

Associate Professor Chong Keng Hua from the Singapore University of Technology and Design said society has to understand the need sometimes "to be more gracious and receptive to people who are struggling".

Homelessness is a problem in Singapore as it is in every other part of the world. That we must be gracious and receptive towards the homeless is without question - they are a part of Singapore as much as all of us. The question is how we intend to resolve the problem of homelessness.

The current solution put forward by the Government is to make Housing Board rental flats available to the homeless.

Where this is not an option, they should be admitted to transitional shelters funded by the Ministry of Social and Family Development. At these shelters, social workers can assist them with their financial and family issues.

This is a long-term solution to the problem of homelessness since it provides an opportunity for the destitute to find their footing with a proper place to rest. They would then be in a position to find proper employment to support themselves - and exit the vicious circle of having no proper place to rest and thus being unable to find proper employment, which in turn leads to further financial ruin.

This is the way to go.

What also needs to be done is to increase outreach to those who are still sleeping rough, and to bring them into the governmental system of assistance. Little can be derived from making it easier for them to sleep rough on public benches.

Brent Lim Zi Jian

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