Monday, 24 October 2016

Tent Village: Singapore’s nomad families

More than 10 families live in East Coast Park’s ‘Tent Village’

Chinese newspaper Zaobao reported that East Coast Park is now a “tent village” where not only more than a dozen people have set up camp, but is also headed by a 29-year-old “village headman”. Most campers were forced into this “temporary shelter” while they wait for their rental HDB flat.

Newspaper received readers informed that the area along the east coast there are many large tents, as a self-sufficiency of the “village.”

According to the newspaper, the  “Tent Village” is in a location which is hidden from most members of the public, not far from a construction site, but near public toilets, which is convenient for the campers.

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Residents come and go in ECP 'kampung'
More than 50 homeless people live in tents that line the beach at East Coast Park

Some tents were dismantled and the occupants moved out.

But new ones would move in, pitch their own tents and "squat" in them for as long as they need to.

And so the unlicensed tented community at a secluded part in Area D of East Coast Park, which popped up years ago and has shaped up to look like a "kampung" now, continues to exist.

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Camping at East Coast Park

East Coast Park is one of Singapore's most treasured urban getaways, offering an invigorating and exciting diversity of sporting, dining and recreational activities. With the theme “Recreation for All”, the park has an activity for everyone.

Camping is only allowed in Areas D and G at East Coast Park. Campers need to apply for a camping permit via the online portal or any physical AXS machine. All terms and conditions apply.

There are designated areas (Areas D and G) within East Coast Park where you can set up a tent temporarily or overnight. To do so, you need to apply for a camping permit first. (You need to have a valid residential address and ID number in Singapore to apply for a camping permit.)

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Homeless families who camp by the beach

MSF regularly patrols beaches and public areas to identify and provide assistance to persons who may be homeless.  MSF also responds to calls to the ComCare hotline from members of the public who come into contact with Singaporeans who may be homeless.

Between 2011 to 2013, MSF provided support and shelter to 565 individuals and 404 families. About 80% are of low income and have weak social support. Three out of four were previous flat owners who had sold their flats for a variety of reasons, such as settling financial or debt problems, divorces, cashing out to make a profit, etc.  After the sale of their flats, they find themselves not being able to afford to buy or rent another flat.  Another one-quarter had fallen out their families and friends whom they were living with, due to reasons such as strained relationships, anti-social behaviour or addiction-related problems.

Government agencies do their best to help these individuals and families explore sustainable housing options depending on their circumstances. They may purchase a flat within their means. In other instances, social workers help them to reunite and stay with their family members. For those with no options, HDB will assist them with rental flats under the Public Rental Scheme. For those who need temporary rental accommodation while they wait for or work out their longer-term housing option, HDB may refer them to interim rental housing.

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People of the tents
Home to the homeless

The campsite had a holiday feel to it. Clothes hung on makeshift clothes-line. Small stoves and barbeque pits occupy the floor around the park shelter. There were fishing rods, crab traps, guitars, styrofoam boxes, unwashed plates and utensils as well.

At one of the shelter, there was even a table on which were two containers of syrup. People - mostly Malays - sat in the shelter, chatting, laughing. A couple arrived with their kid pushing a small shopping cart of groceries. I counted 23 tents pitched on a grass patch about 50 meters long. The kampung spirit certainly lived on in these people, one would assume.

Except that most of them would rather not be here at Sembawang Park. They were here because they had nowhere else to go. You could say they are homeless, but you would be wrong. The homeless do not exist in Singapore. They are merely 'temporarily displaced'.

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A van called home

After divorcing his first wife 2 years ago, an operations executive has been living out of a van at East Coast Park.

The van belongs to the cleaning company that the man, who wanted to be known as Mr Ahmad, 50, works for.

Mr Ahmad's current wife, who wanted to be known as Madam Rose, 30, joined him in February, with his daughter and son, to live out of the van at Carpark F2.

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Raiding the homeless – in the middle of the night
How the homeless park-dry their clothes

They have been camped out there for months, but no one from the government agencies seem to have known about them – perhaps until The Online Citizen’s report on 13 January. TOC had reported that some 15 homeless families were camped out in tents at Sembawang Park.

Three days after TOC’s revelation, on 16 January, Saturday, at around 10pm, officers from the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS), and NParks, together with some 10 policemen, swooped down on the park.

When TOC arrived at the scene at about 10.50pm, there were two police cars and a pick-up van. Some of the homeless were seen dismantling their tents. When queried about why they were being asked to do so, the NParks officers said the campers had broken “rules and regulations”, even though most of them still had valid camping permits.

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Hope for resettled homeless through Project 4650

A project to get the East Coast Park homeless resettled has garnered positive results. Project 4650, started in 2010, has helped about 230 families so far.

The multi-agency effort arose from the emergence of a large number of people living in tents, along the East Coast Park beach, a few years ago. The problem of families found living in public parks and beaches peaked in 2009, at the height of the Asian financial crisis.

Dr Maliki Osman, Minister of State for National Development, said: "On a daily basis we usually identify about 5 to 10 at that time and what we saw were families with very young children and it was a concern to us.

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More Singapore families living out of their vehicles at East Coast Park - report

After divorcing his first wife two years ago, an operations executive has been living out of a van at East Coast Park.

The van belongs to the cleaning company he works for and he lives with his wife and daughter.

They are one of several families that spend the night in vehicles at that carpark while waiting for their flats.

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Meet Singapore’s nomad families

For four years,  the newly-weds lived on the beach. From 2003 to 2007, they lived off their catch from the sea, did odd jobs, and washed in public toilets.

At 16, Madam Siti (not her real name), a Primary 4 dropout, married Mr Osman (not his real name), 25, despite parental objections. They were ostracised by both their families.

They lived in a series of pitched tents at Changi, East Coast, then Sembawang beach. When Madam Siti gave birth, her sister and in-laws took them in for a few months before conflicts drove them out to the beach. This went on till last year.

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Homeless in Singapore’s Island Paradise

You may recall that I wrote about the sad case of Rebecca Loh and the tragic consequences of our government’s callous policy of self- reliance at all costs. Recently I was saddened again by the plight of another victim of similar callousness though as yet still mercifully without the same tragic consequences.

I know of Madam L’s case because she had called our office to ask for help.  Yesterday I met up with her along with the assistance of one of our Hokkien speaking members. Before this our means of communication had been restricted to Malay. (My generation of Singaporeans were taught in English but non-Chinese learnt Malay as a second language.)

I will tell her story as she told it although we are still working on her case and no doubt more details will emerge.   I believe it is not atypical.

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Homeless in Singapore?

Where do the homeless go?

There seems to be a perception that people in homeless shelters normally don’t get evicted, I have come across many cases of eviction and notice of eviction from homeless shelters.

Perpetual queue of homeless?

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Out In The Cold: A documentary bringing light to the homeless

A group of ex-temasek polytechnic (TP) students did a film about the less known, less talked about, sometimes seen, and always leaving people wondering: The Homeless People.

Titled "Out In The Cold", it is a documentary bringing light to people and circumstances that sometimes can’t be help.

The ex-students from TP who had to do a final year project for their Diploma in Moving Images formed the team of four for the documentary. They are Tan Yi Wilfred, the director, Nur Shahirah A. Latif, the producer, Sing Valerie, the director of photography and Anisa Bte Abdul Latiff, the editor.

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10多户人扎营 东海岸出现‘帐篷村’

(新明日报新闻) 东海岸公园现“帐篷村”,十几户人沿海扎营当家,29岁“村长”称大多扎营者为夫妇,或在等迁入租赁组屋,或是被生活所逼而将此当暂时栖身处。

本报接获读者通报,指东海岸一带出现不少大帐篷,如同一个自足自给的“村落”。


记者日前实地采访,发现读者所谓的“帐篷村”,帐篷内里除了备有床垫、被单、厨房用具、衣柜与晒衣架。几户人家甚至用帆布把空间隔开,在帐篷内分出客厅和睡房。“帐篷村”的地点隐蔽,不远处就是沿海施工地;村子后方就是公共厕所,方便洗澡。

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Singapore slums ghetto

Some of you might have criticised the govt for building the extravagant Esplanade spending hundreds of millions tax payers money on a building that hosts operas, musicals and symphonies that only the richer citizens can afford. But you are wrong, while the rich get to watch “Les Misérables“, the poor get to sleep in the underpass between Esplanade and the Citilink Mall at night. The Esplanade is indeed a very useful building both rich and poor people get to use it.

It seems not all the ‘sleepers’ are jobless. Why do people with jobs need to sleep in those places? The answer is very simple and logical. The real wages of some workers are now so low that after the numerous bouts of utilities increase, transport fare increase, and rental increases, there is hardly any choice but to sleep on streets. I would do it too if I make $900 a month because I can save $100 on transport because I sleep close to where I work, another $200 on rental and $50-$100 of utilities bill….in other words I can save half my income, by sleeping in public places.

As Singapore heads for top 1st world status, the cost of living can only rise relative to the wages of low income workers. We can see greater utilisation of our public buildings, MRT stations, bus interchanges and 24hr MacDonald’s outlets as they double up as sleeping areas for these sleepers. It is great that our beloved govt had such great foresight to invest so much money on these beautiful buildings such as the Esplanade we now know how much vision it took…..I really couldn’t imagine that the Esplanade could be actually be that useful to everyone.

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A fresh look at homelessness

Homelessness is a complex issue without a quick or one-size-fits-all solution. Some displaced people reject intervention by the authorities because they do not want to be compelled to continue living with families or co-tenants. These strained relationships cannot just be blamed on personal traits as they may be born out of deeper conflicts.

Volunteers have also found that a number of displaced people exhibit some form of mental or physical disability, & these people face challenges adapting to life in shelters.

Even the concept of a home for a displaced person may be different. For some, it is not about "owning" a place or having a roof over their heads for the night. It is about having a place where they feel safe, in control & surrounded by people they get along with.

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The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Homeless – the ‘invisible’ people in Singapore

“I have lived in several different countries in my life. However, living in Singapore is the closest thing to paradise that I have ever experienced”, exclaims an expatriate in a blog post and adds “I thought it was interesting that I did not see a single homeless person during my entire stay in the country. I am sure there are homeless people in Singapore”.

The expatriate is surely not alone in ‘not seeing a single homeless person here’. The homeless among us are ‘invisible’ to many Singaporeans as well. So where do they live?

The Ministry of Social & Family Development said in Parliament last year that they “regularly patrols beaches and public areas to identify and provide assistance to persons who may be homeless”. Yes, some homeless individuals and families live along our coastal shores.

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related:
Singapore Is The World’s Most Expensive City
Singapore still the best country for expats
Why do people hate Singapore?
Singapore: Best Place to Live and Work
Plight Of The Tissue Peddlers
Have you ever Spoken to a Cardboard Uncle or Aunty?
Singapore’s Story: What comes next
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore Good Old Times
The Poor & Homeless in Singapore
Support for the Needy and Elderly
The Singapore Story
Other Side of The Singapore Story

ChasingThe Singapore Dream
To Be Or Not To Be Singaporeans
Longing for the good old days
Singapore: A Sampan or a Cruise ship?
Singapore at 50: From swamp to skyscrapers
Singapore is ‘World’s Costliest City To Live In’
Coping with Inflation & Cost Of Living
COL goes Up, Up, Up!
Singapore “Swiss” Standard of Living
Tackling poverty the 'kuih lapis' way
Callings for a Poverty Line
Setting a poverty line may not be helpful
A minimum wage for Singapore?

No homeless,destitute starving people in S'pore: Poverty eradicated
Growing Up With Less