Last Fri late at night, I was at a coffee shop near to Blk 58 Hawker Centre New Upp Changi Rd. It’s my usual habit to have a coffee after work before I return home and call it a day. I usually read, surf the net or blog whilst quietly enjoying my drink.
The fact that our little piece of rock is inundated with millions of foreigners to the tune of 38% of local population has mortified whatever little space we have. It’s always crowded everywhere – trains, buses, roads, parks, hospitals and coffee shops of course. Sometimes, I have to share tables with others even though there are few coffee shops and a hawker centre in the vicinity.
That’s why I prefer the late shift where there is not much crowd so that I could have my own private quiet moment in my favorite corner at a coffee shop sipping my coffee.
Last Fri night as I was leaving the coffee shop after my sojourn, I suddenly noticed that there was a surge in the homeless sleeping on the benches at the concrete shade. It was about 1am. A quick count showed more than 10 persons sleeping there. Their ages ranging from early 40s to 70s.
Most of them carried a bag and used it as headrest. They didn’t look like foreign workers. They appeared to be locals. I believe this scenario is repeated all over our country. Just go to the Chinatown Buddha Tooth Relic temple vicinity, there is much more there but those are elderly folks living nearby.
I believe there are two types of homeless sleeping in public places. Those who have got a flat but choose to sleep in a public place vs those who are really homeless who have no choice but to sleep in a public place.
I was told that in Japan, there are throngs of elderly Japanese who choose to sleep in the subways and public areas. There is even cardboard for rent provided. Reason being that those elderly leave their tiny home in the night so that their children could have more room and privacy with their wives. Thus, the tiny flat is used by their children at night and the elderly parents return in the morning to occupy the flat when their children go to work!
We are talking about Japan – the most advanced country in the world still having throngs of elderly ‘homeless’ sleeping in the subways for this reason. It’s due to the expensive costs of their tiny flats. It’s quite common in Japanese cities. It’s quite an accepted norm. Question is will it also become a norm here? What do you think?
What about other first world countries? There is much more in the big US and European cities. I was told by Uncle Bodo that in Germany – one of the richest in EU, there is always lots of homeless unemployed Germans. The German welfare state pays every unemployed citizen about $500 Euro – which is more than S$1,000 per month. Further more, there are many charity organizations running soup kitchen where free meals are easily available. The typical unemployed German is usually not married, no home and refuses to work. He uses the handouts by the state mainly for his alcohol.
The above fact related by my German friend Uncle Bodo is indeed shocking. But here in Singapore, we know that it’s never easy to receive handouts from the government. Before the government disburses any fund to any needy citizen, they screen the recipient and his family upside down and inside out! It won’t be easy to get a decent handout from this government but they are willing to splash money on vanity purchases like the recent $2,200 foldable bicycles! One of my readers commented that this is tantamount to “puay kay!”
To summarize, as a dutiful and concerned citizen, I’ve reported on what I witnessed last Fri night at New Upper Changi Rd. Ironically, the powerful PAP HQ is just a walking distance from that place I reported. They are in charge of this country’s destiny. Hopefully, our future PM who is now in-charge of social community affairs will get to the bottom of this social phenomenon which doesn’t augur well for us being the 3rd richest country on earth.
Sometimes, as citizens we are afraid to bring up issues or problems cuz they will give us more headaches. For example, when we brought up shortage of night parking in HDB estates, our great MBT simply increased night parking from $2 to $4! If that is the case even I also can do that. No need them to solve our night parking problem. Really langgar!
As far as the homeless is concerned – whether they’ve got a home or not, please don’t follow what China has done! Pls read the news report below. That is not the way to solve our homeless sleeping in public places.