A void deck is home, a marble bench a bed

A void deck is home, a marble bench a bed
Mr Lim spent many hours on the bench, rolling cigarettes and watching passers-by, but most of the time, he would just doze off, or sit and stare into the air.

For nearly two years, home for Mr Lim Cheng Teck, 76, was the void deck of a block of one-room flats in Bedok South. His bed was a marble bench.

One half of the bench held his essentials: a few bottles of talcum powder bottles (the empty ones doubling up as incense-sticks holders), food, utensils, lighters and a few other knick knacks.

He sat, had his meals and slept on the other half, using the elevated middle section of the bench as a pillow.

It was not the most comfortable of beds for the tall and lanky man. He slept curled up and on more than one occasion, rolled off the bench in the dead of night.

There was little privacy or quiet at the void deck. Besides an unending stream of human traffic, he often had to contend with noise - from grasscutting machines and garbage trucks to funeral wakes.

He lived on food given by neighbours and old friends, some of whom had known him for more than 30 years.

Sometimes, strangers shared cigarettes with him in quiet companionship; others pilfered his half-eaten lunch or dinner.

Mr Lim used to be a painter and odd-job labourer. He got by on social welfare after he stopped working in his late 60s.

He never married and also lost touch with his siblings.

Mr Lim walked to the washrooms at a nearby market for his thrice-a-day quick showers, always bringing with him a tired-looking towel and a plastic comb.

Occasionally, police patrolling the estate in the wee hours of the night would escort him up to a flat on the eighth floor, his official address, to rest.

He shared the one-room flat with another elderly man, Mr Robert Goh, also in his late 70s.

Mr Lim would then get to sleep on the floor in a corner of the flat, on an area not much bigger than a mahjong table, next to thousands of empty drink cans hoarded by his co-tenant.

The duo became flat mates under the Housing Board's Joint Singles Scheme in September 1999. The scheme caters to poor and needy singles in Singapore with no housing options and family support.

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