MSF and HDB respond to 'false allegations' made by woman whose family lives at Changi Airport

PHOTO: Lianhe Wanbao

The Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF) and the Housing and Development Board (HDB) have responded to 'false allegations' made by a woman who is currently staying at Changi Airport with her 74-year-old mother and 13-year-old son.

In a joint statement on Monday (Feb 26), MSF and HDB stated that the woman, Jolene Phea Hui Eng, has "continued to misrepresent her circumstances, and made false allegations against colleagues from various agencies and voluntary welfare organisations (VWOs)".

In an earlier article by Lianhe Wanbao, Phea said the family had been moving between two-room rental flats since the sale of her flat in 2016.

She said that in December 2017, the authorities arranged for her family to move to a transitional shelter, but they decided to 'move' to Changi Airport after six days, as they were unhappy wth the living conditions.

Phea also posted lengthy posts on her personal Facebook page, describing the sequence of events that led to her present circumstances.

The statement by MSF and HDB addresses and rebuts Phea's claims.

It clarified that while Phea and her family are facing housing challenges, the family has been receiving monthly monetary assistance of $650 and continued help from social workers.

Addressing the allegation that the shelter was unclean with faulty windows and washing machine, the spokesperson said the shelter had been found to be in a clean and hygienic state on multiple occasions during inspections. The faulty windows had been repaired and the washing machine was also found to be in working order. 

It was also revealed that Phea has "not been forthcoming" in providing the basic documentation needed to process her application for a 2-room rental flat in Punggol which the family is seeking, even though they have been found to be ineligible.

Phea has also been emailing "public figures including Members of Parliament, sometimes on a daily or even hourly basis," regarding her case, the statement added.

Below is the statement by MSF and HDB in full:

"We refer to your report on Ms Phea Hui Eng. Regrettably, despite the help rendered to her, Ms Phea has continued to misrepresent her circumstances and make false allegations against colleagues from various agencies and VWOs. We are therefore setting out the facts to correct these inaccuracies."

"While Ms Phea and her family are indeed facing housing challenges they have been assisted by Punggol Family Service Centre, which referred them to the transitional shelter in December 2017.

"We understand that they are still residents in the shelter run by New Hope Community Services, contrary to the impression Ms Phea has given that they have no choice but to stay at the airport.

"The social workers from the transitional shelter have also been working with Ms Phea and her family on their housing and employment issues.

"The family has also been assisted by the Social Service Office at Punggol and is receiving ComCare assistance of $650 in cash per month from January to March 2018.

"Ms Phea had alleged in a series of Facebook posts and to the media that the transitional shelter was unclean and unsafe and that the windows and washing machine in her unit were faulty.

"Before she had made these allegations, New Hope Community Services that runs the transitional shelter had inspected the unit which Ms Phea and her family are living in on multiple occasions. The unit they were provided with was found to be in a clean and hygienic state.

"The windows of the unit which were previously faulty have been repaired and the other household items such as the washing machine are in working order.

"When her social worker from New Hope Community Services met Ms Phea last week, she acknowledged that the window and washing machine were in working condition and she had no further issues with the cleanliness of her unit.

"This is a different account from what she has conveyed publicly in her Facebook posts. The transitional shelter service provider conducts shelter inspections and works closely with the families living there to ensure a clean environment in the shelter, as well as to manage any safety concerns raised by them.

"Any suspected criminal activity is also reported to the police by the service provider. We would also like to provide more details on Ms Phea's housing history, to give your readers a complete picture of her case.

"From Jan 2011 to Jul 2016, Ms Phea owned a 2-room flat in Punggol. She bought it in 2011 for about $88,000. She sold it in July 2016 soon after the Minimum Occupation Period of 5 years was met, at$216,000.

"Just a few months later in November 2016, she approached HDB to request for a public rental flat.

"Given the considerable sales proceeds she received from her flat and her monthly income of $2,100, Ms Phea did not meet the eligibility criteria for a public rental flat.

"Her estimated housing budget at that point was sufficient to buy another 2-room flat.

"Nonetheless, we had explained to her that, in view of the family's circumstances, HDB would be prepared to consider her request for a public rental flat if she could provide documentary proof of how her cash proceeds of $158,000 had been used between July 2016 and November 2016.

"However, between November 2016 and August 2017, Ms Phea did not submit the relevant documents for HDB to assess her application, despite repeated reminders.

" In August 2017, Ms Phea applied to buy a flat from HDB under the Re-Offer of Balance Flats (ROF) exercise.

"However, just before she was due to select her flat in January 2018, she informed HDB that she was unemployed and was thus unable to obtain a housing loan to buy the flat.

"Together with her social worker, HDB staff spoke to her on the same day of her ROF flat selection to assess what assistance she would require.

"We encouraged her to provide the relevant documents so that we could consider her earlier request for a rental flat.

"It was only then that Ms Phea started providing some documents to us, but in a piecemeal manner via multiple emails.

"We are currently in touch with Ms Phea and will continue to work with her social worker who has been assisting her with her family's needs, including employment for Ms Phea.

"It is regrettable that Ms Phea has chosen to exploit the media to pressurise VWOs and agencies to give in to her requests, as stated explicitly to be her intent in her Facebook post.

"In recent weeks, she has also emailed public figures including Members of Parliament, sometimes on a daily or even hourly basis, even though she had not been forthcoming in providing the basic documentation needed to process her application.

"The Government and community groups remain prepared to do our best to assist her, if she is prepared to do her part to act responsibly, for the sake of her own wellbeing and that of her family."