Seeking Shelter: Homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore

“Seeking Shelter: Homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore”

“Seeking Shelter: Homeless during the COVID-19 pandemic in Singapore” is the country’s second nationwide street count of its unhoused and homeless, conducted in 2021. With its authors Dr. Ng Kok Hoe and Jeyda Simren Sekhon Atac, we begin by reviewing the first street count and report in 2019. Thereafter, we dive deeper into their most recent report, to understand the state of homelessness during COVID-19, explore the role of social policy, and discuss volunteer engagement and ethical priorities.

A construction site in Singapore

On homelessness and housing insecurity, income insecurity and minimum income standard, and bridging research, practice, and policy: Dr. Ng Kok Hoe

In 2019, Dr. Ng Kok Hoe was part of two important studies in Singapore. First, he led the first nationwide street count of homelessness in the country, and second, he was part of the Minimum Income Standard or MIS study, which in a participatory manner determined the household budgets necessary to meet the basic needs of ordinary Singaporeans. Starting with a discussion of his research interests in housing and income insecurity, we hear more about these two studies and the bridging of research, practice, and policy with regard to social work and social service.

A HDB block with clothes left out to dry

“Mind the chasm”: The pandemic’s devastatingly uneven impact and the insecurities of low-income families across multiple, intersecting dimensions

This month, in the same week that the Department of Statistics revealed that households in the bottom 10 per cent were the group hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic, with their monthly total earnings from work falling by 6.1 per cent, Beyond Social Services published its “Mind the Chasm” report.

Map illustrating the distribution of street homeless people in Singapore

“Homeless in Singapore: Results from a nationwide street count”: Putting the “1,050 street homeless people” in context

Ng’s (2019) excellent and policy-relevant research was characterised by robust data collection – using two different types of counts and involving social service agencies in the research – the creation of a base (figure) for future research and for regular counts longitudinally, as well as the pairing of the causes of homelessness with policy recommendations. Two limitations, nonetheless, should be flagged. The absence of: First, contextualisation of the 921 to 1,050 street homeless people in Singapore, especially in comparison to other developed countries or cities where, as mentioned in the publication, counts of homeless populations are part of regular policy activity; and second, substantive and empirical attention linked to the family and community networks of these individuals.