Hoping to be homeless no longer
He was once a cook - and a good one too, he says.
Then the 54-year-old, who wants to be known only as Mr Lee, suffered a heart attack and stroke six years ago.
He says he lost his job, his family and a roof over his head.
The bachelor was living with his mother in her flat in the east of Singapore, but he felt like a burden as he was jobless and sick, so he left.
"I felt that I was a disappointment to her. If I were not living there, it would be out of sight, out of mind," he says, tears welling in his eyes.
Homeless for the last three years, Mr Lee has been sleeping in parks and sometimes at an uncle's place.
"He recently suffered from a stroke, so by staying over, I can help to keep an eye on things," he adds.
Mr Lee gets his meals from charity Willing Hearts, which runs a soup kitchen.
"Previously I went to a Chinese temple in Geylang for vegetarian food. Many homeless people I've met take their meals there.
"But I developed gout and have to stay away from bean-based food, so I stopped going to the temple," he says.
For his daily hygiene, Mr Lee says he goes to a public pool for his showers.
"I don't go in free of charge. I use the voucher given out by the Government for SG50. I also swim once in a while as a form of physiotherapy.
"I am hoping to get back my health so that I will be able to look for a job," he says.
He told The New Paper on Sunday that his Public Assistance fund of $400 a month "will dry up by the end of the month".
"I can't simply wait around for handout," he says.
He was advised to claim insurance as he suffered his heart attack while still working, "but I don't want to, because that would mean if I win, then I cannot seek help from any government agencies any longer".
He does not have a clue how much money he can claim from his insurance.
Mr Lee hopes to return to cooking for a hawker stall, even though the stress may be too much for his heart to take.
"I am working on getting healthy because that is the only skill I know, but I am worried no one will hire a sick man," he says.
"Then again, tomorrow is another day," he adds in a chirpy voice before riding off on his bicycle, with his worldly possession contained in the basket behind him.
About the study
To design solutions for the poor and get low-income Singaporeans to help lead the study, the researchers formed an advisory committee made up of 10 men and women from low-income communities. The Centre for Culture-Centred Approach to Research and Evaluation then launched an online campaign to raise awareness on poverty here.
Research assistant Naomi Tan says: "This is where we argue that the community members, in this case the low-income, are in the best position to identify and define the problems they face and the corresponding solutions that would actually be impactful and relevant to them."
What does it mean to be poor
The study found:
- Low-income Singaporeans either live in interim or public rental housing. Some are homeless.
- They have a monthly household income of $1,500 or less. Some are on Public Assistance, which ranges from $450 to $1,180 each month and has a set of eligibility criteria.
- They are unable to afford healthcare as they do not have enough savings or do not earn enough.
- Some of the elderly, despite having children, are struggling to get by.
- They suffer from food insecurity, so they eat cheap but non-nutritious food. They cut down on the number of hot meals a day, worry if there is enough food in the house and are choosing to not spend their limited cash on healthier foods.
Challenges faced by the poor
- Although the resources to help are available, the poor do not know how to get information on what they are eligible for or how to get to the relevant agencies.
- Another significant hurdle is the submission of an application that is according to the requirements set out by the agencies. Many from the low-income group find the stringent conditions tedious and frustrating.
- Stigma and alienation from relatives and the community at large hinder the poor from seeking the help needed.
- The Government has set up safety nets, such as Medifund, for low-income individuals who face health problems. Despite these efforts, they still cannot afford healthcare due to insufficient savings or a low wage.