Trio calls Changi Airport home for last seven months
Homeless couple set up camp at Changi Airport because...
Changi Airport is a place of transit for travellers, but for one couple, it's home.
For seven months now, Miss Eileen Ho and her boyfriend, Mr Daniel Soo, both 24, would walk around the terminals with their belongings in a suitcase.
At night, they settle down on thin comforters on the floor in one corner of Terminal 3, near Xin Wang Hong Kong Cafe.
Independent checks with employees of the cafe confirm that the couple and Miss Ho's brother have been sighted late at night for several months now.
The couple told The New Paper when we visited on Wednesday that they moved into the airport after Miss Ho had a falling out with her parents.
They also took with them Miss Ho's 20-year-old brother, Wilson, whom they say suffers from epilepsy.
"We have no other place to go, that is why we stay like this," said Miss Ho, pointing to their bedding.
Why the airport?
Mr Soo said: "It's pretty all right here, there's free Internet, free electricity and free water."
Mr Soo said he occasionally gets a call to report for his part-time job at a catering company in the area. He earns about $500 a month.
The couple said they have been living on this amount for food, cigarette and top-ups for their mobile phones. Friends also drop in with food from time to time, they added.
Miss Ho said that, initially, they stayed at a friend's flat in Chinatown, but were asked to move out after two weeks.
Mr Soo said he has nowhere to go either, as he was orphaned at a young age.
When asked what they do each day, Miss Ho answered with a shrug: "Eat, smoke, charge phone."
When asked why they have not found jobs or got more help, Miss Ho said it has been difficult for them to find jobs because potential employers would not hire "homeless people".
She also said she worked at a cafe three years ago and has qualifications in food-and-beverage operations.
The couple claimed that they approached a Family Service Centre for help, but there was no follow up.
The couple and Miss Ho's brother were notified by Changi's security guards to move out on Friday.
A spokesman for Changi Airport Group said that they had hooked the trio up with the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and "a social welfare officer is currently exploring accommodation options with them".
An MSF spokesman confirmed that it was aware of this case.
The MSF spokesman said: "The persons mentioned had received financial and social assistance from both Social Service Office (SSO) and Family Service Centre (FSC).
"Temporary shelter options were also offered to them previously, but they had declined the offer.
"They often missed their scheduled appointments with the FSC social workers and were also reluctant to work with help agencies on their accommodation issues.
"Nonetheless, our help agencies will continue to offer assistance. Two of the persons are currently receiving financial assistance from the SSO. We will continue to work with them to offer alternative shelter options."
TNP approached the chairman of the Government Parliamentary Committee for Social And Family Development, Mr Seah Kian Peng, to ask his views on the trio's plight.
He noted that there were options available to the couple.
"There are numerous Social Service Offices all over Singapore which they could visit," said Mr Seah.
"They could also speak to their MPs or look into the interim housing plan that is in place to handle such situations."
He stressed the importance of being fair when it comes to providing assistance.
"People need to try and work, too," he said.
"We want to be fair to all parties and render help to those who need it the most. Getting help should not be a soft option."
The persons mentioned had received financial and social assistance from both Social Service Office and Family Service Centre. Temporary shelter options were also offered to them previously, but they had declined the offer.
- A Ministry of Social And Family Development spokesman