Homeless shelters at capacity as ranks swell: NGO

A volunteer chats with a homeless person in Singapore. Photo: Homeless Hearts of Singapore/Facebook
A volunteer chats with a homeless person in Singapore. Photo: Homeless Hearts of Singapore/Facebook

Singapore’s limits on movement have created a “significant crisis” for the homeless as public loitering and rough-sleeping become curtailed and shelters hit capacity, according to a nonprofit appealing for space to shelter them. 

Thanking those who’ve stepped forward so far, such as churches, Homeless Hearts of Singapore yesterday said it was still looking for temporary spaces for homeless residents during the lockdown, which is expected to end May 4. Capacity at homeless shelters has been reduced by safe-distancing measures, it said.

“Thank you to all who have responded to, or shared, this appeal! We are following up with churches that have made their spaces available, and are closing this appeal for now,” the group wrote online. The online appeal for shelter was launched Thursday.

Homeless Hearts said it received a surge of requests from both homeless citizens and foreigners as well as social workers shelter for the displaced. Some of those individuals recently became homeless due to circumstances such as losing their jobs or abuse resulting from the economic impact of COVID-19, the organization said. 

“Many of these people are not just elderly uncles, but young low-income women who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation and injustice. [T]here are also homeless youths and families with young babies in need,” the nonprofit said Thursday. 

Singapore has not released data on job losses since the outbreak began.

“We’ve started having people tell us they were made homeless during this time. The economic crisis has caused a terrible haemorrhage of job losses,” Homeless Hearts said. “We have heard that some low-income women (esp young foreign women) are even being pressured to perform sexual ‘favours’ for their male customers / bosses.”

The organization also said the city’s homeless shelters can house fewer people due to safe-distancing measures. There is no publicly available information about total existing shelter capacity.

“Overcrowded shelters mean that the risk of a viral outbreak in a shelter rises exponentially, and if/when a shelter is hit, the entire shelter has to be put on lockdown immediately,” it said. 

Singapore’s confirmed COVID-19 cases increased dramatically over the weekend with 424 more infections since Friday bringing the total to 2,532. Eight people have died since the outbreak began in January.

A study on homelessness published last year said that about 1,000 people live on Singapore’s streets, with most of them spotted in Bedok, Kallang and the city. 

Homeless shelters in Singapore include the Crisis Centre in Joo Chiat, the Star Shelter on Waterloo Street, and two shelters run by the New Hope Community Services. 


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Filthy, cramped dorms come to light as virus afflicts Singapore’s migrant workers

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