Homelessness in SG


Have a quick read on the Issues in the Homelessness Space in Singapore:

Singapore's Hidden Homeless: Insights from a Nationwide Street Count 


Key insights:

1. What is the extent of homelessness in Singapore?

(Source: Singapore's Hidden Homeless: Insights from a Nationwide Street Count)

  • A 2019 report estimated that there are between 921 and 1,050 homeless persons/rough sleepers in Singapore. However, only about 300 to 385 homeless people received help from MSF in recent years.

  • This data does not include those suffering from secondary or tertiary homelessness. 

2. There are different forms of homelessness in Singapore

  • Primary homelessness - where people do not have accommodation and sleep in public spaces not intended for human habitation

  • Secondary homelessness - where people live in temporary accommodation such as shelters and hostels, or move frequently because permanent housing is not available

  • Tertiary homlessness - where people live in adequate accommodation such as overcrowded housing, or, where people may imminently lose their housing due to eviction, violence, or lack of social support

3. There are many reasons for homelessness

  • Unemployment, irregular hours or low pay are the main reasons for sleeping rough on the streets. The other main reasons are strained family relations, and a lack of access to housing services.

4. The big picture: A ‘many helping hands’ approach

  • Government - provides financial assistance, funds shelters and interim rental housing where the homeless can stay before moving into permanent housing arrangements.

  • PEERS Network - a network of public agencies and community groups who collectively provide social intervention and assist homeless individuals in finding shelter.

  • Community groups and agencies - build trust and relationships with homeless individuals and journey with them. Assist in getting them access to help.

5. Some insights from people who work in this space

(Source: ST: A Journey in Helping the Homeless

  •  "Homelessness is a recurring issue here... A community really helps because if we have the right people to journey with the homeless person, this really helps him or her." ~ National University of Singapore postdoctoral research fellow at the department of sociology Harry Tan

  • "Many people think this job (of helping the homeless) belongs to the Government... But to be impactful, we need a 'many helping hands' approach." ~ Pastor Andrew Khoo, chief executive of New Hope Community Services

  • “Giving the homeless hope begins by building relationships with them”

    ~ Pastor Andrew Khoo, chief executive of New Hope Community Services

  • Homeless individuals appreciate when they are treated as friends, rather than problems to be solved, and in time trust can be built. ~ Homeless Hearts of Singapore co-founder Abraham Yeo

6. What to do if you encounter a homeless individual

7 tips for you if you encounter a person who might be homeless

(Source: HHOS: Tips to Help

  • Do no harm - Don’t call the authorities on the homeless person unless you first ask his/her permission

  • Offer some food - Before offering them food, remember to approach them with sincerity and respect, and with the intention to treat them as equals.

  • Listen to understand, not solve - Don’t be too fast to try and solve the issue of homelessness. Listen to what he/she may have to say first. Sometimes he/she is not looking for help but simply a friend to chat with.

  • Offer Non-monetary help first - If a homeless person demands money from you, refrain from doing so. If he/she takes offence, simply walk away. Instead, you can help in non-monetary ways ( e.g., topping up his/her ezlink cards / mobile cards or buying food for him/her).

  • Point him/her to a Family Service Centre - Encourage him/her to go to the nearest Family Service Centre. Offer to accompany them there if it is possible. 

  • “Phone a friend” - You may contact HHOS via their Facebook page. Their volunteers can go to accompany you if you are too shy / unsure of how to approach a homeless person. Alternatively, you may also call the ComCare helpline at 1800-222-0000. Those manning the hotline will link you with the relevant agencies. 

  • Respect their Privacy - Avoid taking photos of homeless friends to post on social media without their explicit permission and understanding of social media. They are fellow people first and foremost, whose privacy and dignity should be respected and honoured. Furthermore, their locations need to be kept confidential from the authorities

To find out more about the issue of homelessness in Singapore, click here to read about the Open Home Network or schedule a consultation with us to have a chat about what you can do to help!