Sticking with solitary spots at stairways, riverside

Sticking with solitary spots at stairways, riverside
Volunteers from Catholic Welfare Services befriending the homeless in the streets. They go out every Friday night to distribute food and drinks to the homeless in the Toa Payoh, Rochor, Waterloo and Bras Basah areas.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

Others might prefer spots where there are bright lights and bathrooms, but Mr Kamal is content with a staircase landing.

"I prefer to sleep on my own... no one bothers me," said the odd-job worker, 52, who declined to give his full name.

He has been living on the streets for seven years. He said he lived in a three-room HDB flat until he injured himself and lost his job a decade ago. His relationship with his wife grew strained when he could not support his family, he said.

Fewer people now frequent previous haunts such as Chin Swee Road in Chinatown, said Pastor Caleb How of His Glorious Church.

"Common places are by the riverside, staircase landings... and they sleep near their friends, who might give them food and let them into their homes to shower," he said.

Still, frequent spot checks by the authorities have kept many away.

Mr Alan Elango, a volunteer with a Christian organisation, slept on the streets for more than two years after falling out with his sister because he was an alcoholic.

Read also: Where the displaced seek refuge

The 40-year-old used to drink under a pavilion outside a supermarket in Chin Swee Road.

Then he tried to take his own life and was hospitalised.

Things turned around for him when he was introduced by a social worker to the Christian group, which gave him a place to stay.

"These days, I come back (to Chin Swee) every three months to check on the people here," he said.

"Last time, there were many more. But three of them have died."


This article was first published on Feb 5, 2017.
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