Sufficient safe shelter capacity for the homeless during circuit breaker: Desmond Lee

One of the Safe, Sound Sleeping Places where the homeless can stay for a night or two.
One of the Safe, Sound Sleeping Places where the homeless can stay for a night or two.PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - There is currently sufficient safe shelter capacity in Singapore, with 700 spaces available for the homeless, said Minister for Social and Family Development Desmond Lee in a Facebook post on Friday (April 24).

The minister said that only 250 of these places have been filled up.

These shelters, called Safe, Sound Sleeping Places (S3Ps), are run by 35 organisations that are existing or potential partners of the Partners Engaging and Empowering Rough Sleepers (Peers) Network.

The network was launched in July 2019 to bring together the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), other government agencies and community partners, in order to help the homeless here.

"During the circuit breaker, when everyone should stay at home for (their) health and safety, the homeless in our city have nowhere to go," said Mr Lee.

He added: "I am encouraged that 35 organisations have stepped forward to join us so far, and offered their premises and resources to help the homeless and rough sleepers."

The network organisations are continuing to take care of the homeless during this period while observing safe distancing measures.

Some have expanded capacity and extended their operations to be round the clock, said Mr Lee.

"Befrienders continue to keep in touch with our friends on the streets via phone calls and texts, and encourage them to seek shelter," he said.

Mr Lee added that he met with many new partners during a video conference call on Wednesday.

These include Singapore Anglican Community Services, together with the Anglican Diocese of Singapore, Ang Mo Kio Methodist Church, Pasir Panjang Church, Kassim Mosque and Assyakirin Mosque.

Assyakirin Mosque executive chairman Muhammad Hafiz Abdul Rashid told The Straits Times on Friday (April 24) that his mosque and Kassim Mosque could provide up to 17 spaces together.

Both mosques began their S3P operations earlier this week and are currently taking care of 10 homeless people  who were referred to them by MSF.

 
 
 

They are offered basic necessities, such as sleeping and showering facilities, and a daily $15 food allowance.

"Since the two mosques have the ability to offer the space during this circuit breaker period as mosques are closed, we decided to reach out," said Mr Hafiz.

"This is in line with the work of many mosques to support the vulnerable in the community," he added.

The mosque is also looking into continuing to offer such space for the homeless after the coronavirus outbreak is over.

A SACS spokesman told the Straits Times on Friday (April 24) that it set up its shelter for those  who have lost their jobs and place of residence during the Covid-19 crisis last Friday (April 17). The shelter can accommodate 100 people.

It is located at the Anglican Diocese Centre in Potong Pasir. Each resident is provided with three meals, refreshment and fruit daily and Wi-Fi is available. Apart from the dormitories and sanitary facilities, there is also an open field for exercise.

“Aligned with our mission, we promptly responded to the call and worked with MSF to meet the national needs,” said the spokesman.

 
 
 

Mr Lee invited more to join in the collective effort to keep the homeless safe.

"You can help by contributing to our partners, providing meals to the homeless, helping to address their daily needs, or assisting them with employment now or when times are better," he said.

Should you see anyone in need of shelter, you can reach out to msf_peersoffice@msf.gov.sg or call the ComCare hotline at 1800-222-0000.