Malaysian cleaner says she sleeps rough in Singapore by choice


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Singapore—A Malaysian woman working as a cleaner in Changi Airport says she sleeps rough ‘by choice,’ reported Malasyian national news agency Bernama on Tuesday (Nov 24).
A report in the New Straits Times (NST) on Sunday (Nov 22) said that in Singapore, hundreds of Malaysians are sleeping outside, bathing using public facilities, and are going without food at times in order to save money. These individuals were left in dire straits when they could not go home after the border between Malaysia and Singapore was closed in an effort to contain the Covid-19 pandemic earlier this year.
Due to salary cuts and the high cost of living in Singapore, some have been forced into homelessness.
However, for one the Changi cleaner, identified only as a 48-year-old woman named Miri who hails from Sarawak, it’s a different story. She told Bernama that she likes being alone, and if she could live alone, she would.
Bernama, which said that it had talked to Miri in the course of doing “checks over claims that Malaysian workers are living in the streets of Singapore” reported that Miri was one of around 30 homeless people in Kallang that they talked to on the evening of Nov 23, and the only Malaysian.
When the news agency caught up with her, Miri was watching TV from her mobile phone at a hawker center, where she frequently goes to feed stray cats.
She has been on the streets for the past two months, Miri said.
When offered a blanket, she accepted it.
The news agency chose to go to Kallang to talk to the homeless since it was identified as one of the top five areas in Singapore where people are sleeping rough last November.
The NST report from Sunday said that some Malaysians have chosen to stay in Singapore despite the fallout of the pandemic out of economic need. Current regulations requiring them to quarantine for two weeks upon entering Malaysia and another two weeks after their return to Singapore has made going back unfeasible.
Monthly salaries range from S$800 to S$1,400. One person interviewed said that after expenses for food, transportation, and the money they send home, it was hard to afford monthly bed space ($300) or a room (between S$700 and S$1,200).
In November 2019, a study by the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy found that there are one thousand homeless people in Singapore.
Assistant Professor Ng Kok Hoe from the university, along with a team of close to 500 volunteer fieldworkers who covered all 12,000 blocks of residential flats and other public and commercial spaces over a period of three months, found and recorded the numbers of individuals who were asleep or going to sleep in public spaces.
The highest number of homeless people were found in the city, Bedok and Kallang districts. Dr Ng said, “Despite growing public attention in recent years, the size of the homeless population in Singapore has always been unknown. Measuring homelessness in a systematic and transparent way enables us to provide guidance for policy and service planning”.
There are no updated numbers for the homeless in Singapore since the Covid-19 pandemic began, however. —/TISG
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