Budget debate: 2 new transitional shelters set up for rough sleepers in January

There had been an urgency early last year to provide shelter quickly to rough sleepers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
There had been an urgency early last year to provide shelter quickly to rough sleepers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - Two new transitional shelters for rough sleepers were set up in January this year, said Minister-in-charge for Social Services Integration Desmond Lee on Friday (March 5).

About 250 residents have moved from Safe Sound Sleeping Places (S3Ps) into these shelters, he added.

"The eventual goal is to help them address their underlying social issues and achieve longer-term stable accommodation," said Mr Lee during the debate on the Ministry of Social and Family Development's (MSF) budget.

This brings the total number of MSF-funded transitional shelters to five.

Unlike S3Ps, transitional shelters allow people to stay for longer periods such as half a year while shelter employees help them find housing and employment and work through the problems they face.

S3Ps - of which there are currently 14 - cater to those who are not ready or not suitable for transitional shelters but need somewhere to rest for the night.

They are run by community and religious groups, which voluntarily open up their premises to provide short-term refuge to those in need of shelter.

Mr Lee noted that early last year, there had been an urgency to provide shelter quickly to rough sleepers due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

"(The ministry) called for more groups to open their premises as S3Ps. Over 40 organisations answered our call. This was a sixfold increase from pre-Covid times," he said.

MSF had also worked with the Housing Board to provide vacant flats as S3Ps.

But by December last year, the number of S3Ps had fallen to 21, due to the community partners resuming their primary operations, among other reasons.

The Straits Times reported then that the 21 S3Ps were mostly full, with about 100 people on the wait list, due to increased demand and reduced number of S3Ps.

Since April 2020, the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) network has sheltered about 900 rough sleepers, said Mr Lee.

The network includes social service agencies, community groups and government agencies.