Beach kampung: About 50 people still live in tents on East Coast beach

They have been told to leave many times. They have been fined on several occasions.

But most of the people living in more than 30 tents in Area D of East Coast Park have refused to budge.

One claimed she was a second wife and that her husband's first wife kicked him out of the flat.

Others claimed they could not afford a new home.

When The New Paper visited the area last month and on Monday, there were more than 50 people living permanently in tents at the beach.

Several tents were empty as their occupants were out working.

Though some of the beach dwellers claimed they had no option but to stay by the beach, TNP understands it is because they have rejected help from the authorities.

The authorities have had a difficult time relocating them because many of them are content to stay by the beach, or are too ashamed to share information about their plight.

Three families tell their stories.

Mr Yazid Omar

Why he's there: Lost his job, got divorced and ex-wife kept the flat

Duration of stay: Six years

Occupation: Part-time odd-job labourer

Family: Three children, all of whom are working

While other beach-goers at East Coast Park pick seashells, he looks for live clams buried in the sand.

When Mr Yazid Omar, 52, finds a handful of them, he cooks the clam meat with his instant noodles.

He has been doing that for breakfast, lunch and dinner every day for the past six years.

The man is one of the "residents" of the tent city at East Coast Park beach.

Mr Yazid claimed he has been living in a tent at Area D, next to Goldkist Beach Resort, since 2008 because he does not have a home to return to.

He claimed he ended up on the beach after losing his job at a shipping company and getting a divorce.

He claimed his ex-wife, who has custody of his three children, kept the flat, leaving him without a home.

When pressed for an explanation as to why he had no money from the divorce settlement, he claimed it "disappeared with the flat" and refused to elaborate.

He is also ashamed to seek help from his children, all of whom are working.

He earns $45 a week as a part time labourer - and that's only if someone employs him to lift goods or courier items that week.

He spends half of it on food, such as instant noodles and canned sardines.

He spends $8 on butane gas cartridges for his portable stove and $10 on batteries to power his lamps. Whatever is left is used to pay for miscellaneous items, such as clothing, materials to repair his tent and cigarettes.

He claimed he lives off the land when no jobs are available. He collects unused charcoal left behind at the barbecue pits for fuel, and picks fallen coconuts for food. The husks of the coconuts are burnt to ward off mosquitoes.

Strong winds can blow away improperly anchored tents and torrential rain can cause leaks.

When that happens, Mr Yazid takes his things and moves to one of the pavilions there, which he then shares with his fellow beach dwellers.

Despite the hard life and several fines from NParks, he refuses to budge.

"I actually like living out here," he said.

Mr Mohd Noor and Madam Suzanna

Why they're there: They cannot get a flat that they want

Duration of stay: Nine years

Occupation: Mr Mohd Noor is a parttime odd-job labourer

Family: Mr Mohd Noor's parents own a three-room flat

The couple claimed they ended up on the beach because they refused to share a flat with another family.

Mr Mohd Noor, 42, is ineligible for a rental flat under the Housing Board's family scheme because his wife, Madam Suzanna, 27, is Malaysian.

To qualify for a rental flat under this scheme, Madam Suzanna must be either a Singapore citizen or a permanent resident.

He can apply for a flat under the joint singles scheme, which means living with another family in the same flat.

But he has rejected that idea as he wants to live with only his wife.

Said Mr Mohd Noor, who has no children: "The other way is to live with strangers (under the joint singles scheme). But I don't like that, there could be problems."

So for the past eight years, they have been occupying the grassy patches meant for picnickers. His parents live in a three-room flat, but he does not want to live there.

Mr Mohd Noor, who earns $40 a week, said: "Too 'malu' (Malay for ashamed) to ask them." So now he shares a tent with his wife. His tent can accommodate six people.

Campers must obtain a free permit from the National Parks Board to stay for a maximum of four days per month at the campsite, otherwise they will be fined and placed on a blacklist.

Mr Mohd Noor claimed he was caught without a permit thrice and that he was fined $300 each time. He has yet to pay the fines and claims he is on the blacklist, banning him from making bookings in future.

Mr Daud and Ms Fatimah

Why they're there: Family problems

Duration of stay: Eight months

Occupation: Mr Daud is an electronics technician; Ms Fatimah is a cleaner

Family: Mr Daud has children and grandchildren. Ms Fatimah has a sister, who is also living on the beach Mr Daud, 57, and his companion, Ms Fatimah, 45, (not their real names) are not homeless.

Mr Daud owns a Holland Village HDB flat, which is occupied by his wife. He had to leave the flat because of Ms Fatimah.

"I'm his second wife," she claimed, though she did not offer any proof. She moved to the beach eight months ago to join Mr Daud.

Ms Fatimah claimed she has her own apartment.

But when asked why the couple did not stay there, they claimed they prefer the beach for the cool beach air and outdoor living experience.

They noticed the large community of "campers", some of whom have stayed for years at a time.

He said they take pity on their "neighbours", and often share their food with them.

For this year's Hari Raya Puasa, Mr Daud claimed he spent hundreds of dollars to organise a feast of Malay food for everyone to share.

He bought the food from nearby food centres, and more than 50 people turned up, he said.

Said Mr Daud: "We want everyone to have a good time. Their lives are hard enough as it is."


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