The study was done by Dr Ng Kok Hoe, a senior research fellow at the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy, who led a team of researchers at the school’s Social Inclusion Project to do Singapore’s second nationwide study on homelessness.
Among its findings, the study found that the scale of homelessness did not change significantly between 2019 and 2021, despite intense state intervention and the far-reaching impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The combined size of the street homeless and temporary shelter populations in 2021 was 1,036, comparable to the 1,115 recorded in 2019.
In addition to street counts, researchers also conducted in-depth interviews with 51 residents at a temporary shelter for homeless people, to understand their personal circumstances, housing histories and pathways into homelessness.
Most of the interview participants were Singaporean men, aged 50 years and above, with the majority having only primary or secondary education. Many were working or looking for work and about half were either divorced or widowed.
Besides the two groups, the study also identified another group of homeless people among its interview participants.
This group, which includes more men than women, is made up of people who have been sleeping rough even before the pandemic hit Singapore in February 2020.
The long-term homeless people have been on the streets from a few months to up to 25 years, with their ages ranging from the 30s to the 70s.
Many had completely lost contact with their family and had poor experiences with public rental housing. They were found while sleeping rough during the pandemic and referred to the shelter.
All of them had experienced problems in their family relationships such as historical misunderstandings with parents or siblings that led to participants leaving the family at a young age or acrimonious breakups involving years of conflict, even violence.
Describing their work and finances, the report said this group is made up of people who have low-wage and insecure jobs and live in extreme poverty.
They had little or no savings, and had to carefully ration any money they received by cutting back on basic needs like food and toiletries, the report found.