Complex issue with many causes: Ministry

Homelessness is a "complex issue" with many underlying causes, ranging from financial to marital and family difficulties.

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) said this in response to questions sent by The Straits Times about the findings of a survey done by SW101 and Montfort Care.

It added that in dealing with homelessness, the Government works with various parties to address underlying issues, such as providing employment assistance, counselling to address marital and family issues, or link-ups to other services such as childcare.

"MSF looks into all cases brought to our attention, to ascertain the individuals' situations. Our priority is to ensure their immediate needs are met and they receive support to address their long-term housing and living needs," it said.

Vulnerable individuals, such as women and children, are given immediate assistance and admitted to crisis shelters, it added.

Families who have exhausted all housing options may be admitted into transitional shelters.

Older persons who have physical or mental health conditions, no means of supporting themselves, or no family able or willing to support them are admitted to welfare homes, it said.

"However, even as we seek to provide support to the needy in our community, there are some who prefer to be self-reliant or decline assistance for other reasons."

Last year, the MSF dealt with 269 cases of homelessness, which it defined to be people with no means of accommodation. Its figures exclude those who have a home but choose to sleep in public because of family disputes or other reasons.

Of the 269 cases, 93 were of families who went into transitional shelters, and 176 were of individuals who went into transitional shelters or welfare homes.

In 2015, MSF dealt with 296 cases.

Kok Xing Hui

• Members of the public can help by approaching people in need to find out more about their situations, before calling the ComCare hotline on 1800-222-0000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 07, 2017, with the headline 'Complex issue with many causes: Ministry'. Print Edition | Subscribe