Elderly couple sit at HDB lift lobby every day for 10 hours

Elderly couple sit at HDB lift lobby every day for 10 hours

Are they homeless?

What would you think if you see a couple hanging around on an HDB void deck for at least 10 hours, every single day? You’d probably assume they are homeless, right? This is exactly what residents of an HDB block thought, seeing two ‘homeless senior citizens’ hanging around on the void deck on a daily basis. 

It’s easy to judge. But could there be more than meets the eye? One resident wanted to know the true story behind these so-called homeless senior citizens. And it will open your eyes to a world that maybe many of us are unfamiliar with… but should be aware of. 

Homeless senior citizens? Couple spotted at void deck for 10 hours every day

Homeless Senior Citizens

The block where the elderly couple, Mdm Wang Yachun, 78 years old, and her 88-year-old husband hangs out at. | Photo: STOMP/The Straits Times

An elderly couple caught the attention of an HDB resident, identified as Mdm Chen. 

For over 10 hours daily, the couple hangs around on the void deck of Block 9 New Bridge Road, says Mdm Chen, speaking to Lianhe Wanbao.  She suspected that they were homeless senior citizens.

“I see them sitting there from day till night. They seemed to be sleeping on the streets,” Mdm Chen said. She further adds that the couple might obstruct residents by sitting near the lift.

The suspected homeless senior citizens were later identified as Mdm Wang Yachun, 78 years old, and her 88-year-old husband.

They were seen seated near the letterboxes outside the lift and surrounded by packets of food when Lianhe Wanbao reporters arrived. Mdm Wang was seated on a carpet while her husband was on a reclining chair.

Homeless Senior Citizens

Homeless Senior Citizens: A resident suspected that the elderly couple was homeless as they sat there from day to night. | Photo: STOMP/The Straits Times

Only there to “chill”

It all started four years ago when Mdm Wang and her husband started to head “downstairs” to “chill”.

She shared that initially, they spent their time selling Thai food until her husband was diagnosed with diabetes, kidney disease and high blood pressure three years ago.

He had no choice but to stay home due to “mobility issues”. After this, Mdm Wang had to run the stall on her own to make a living. 

The couple, who have been married for more than 50 years and have no children, in fact, live in the opposite block.

“In the beginning, I only brought my husband downstairs to chill after closing the stall. It was only until March this year when the stall ceased operations then did we go downstairs from 10am to 9pm,” Mdm Wang clarified.

She explained that they were bored of staying at home and did not want to spend the whole day facing the television. Furthermore, it was stuffy in their flat.

According to her, they found their space in “a small corner next to the letterboxes” as it was extremely cooling. 

“This became our ‘base'”

“A lot of people passing by would also chat with us. It felt nice, so this became our ‘base’,” added Mdm Wang.

But Mdm Wang is conscious about their actions when they do “chill” in the lift lobby area. Not only do they not occupy too much space in their corner, but she also says that they would always pack up all their belongings before leaving.

And neither would they cause an obstruction or dirty the place.

She added: “There was one time when police on patrol thought that we were homeless. After knowing that we were only there to chill, they advised us to go home early and then left.”

6 Things You Might Not Know About The Homeless In Singapore

Mdm Wang and her husband who chose to “chill” in their own corner were easily mistaken as homeless. But their story certainly got us thinking about the actual homeless in Singapore. 

Here are six things about the homeless in Singapore — according to Justin Hui from Youth.sg — that you might not know. 

1. Not all are actually homeless

There could be a myriad of reasons as to why they choose to live on the streets. Many of them actually have home addresses on their NRIC. But they could choose to live outdoors due to fall-outs with family or relatives, and others, voluntarily.

Homeless Senior Citizens

In their vulnerable state, they are still exposed to pickpockets. | Photo: FLICKR/Homeless Reader by mikecogh

2. Yes, people do steal from the homeless

Apparently, there are those who exploit homeless people because they lack the power and social clout to complain, and all the cards are stacked against them. 

3. They love having conversations

We’re all human. The ultimate thing that eventually bonds us all is the human connection. It can be a very lonely thing to be seen as “different”, after being estranged from their loved ones at that.

They crave meaningful interaction and perhaps if we would, the least we could all do is to offer them a warm smile.

4. Giving them money doesn’t solve the problem

When it comes to the homeless, it’s more important to build relationships with them than offer them money.  

Marcus Ang, 33, who has been visiting the homeless regularly for the past year, said: “It’s one thing to give them a hand-out and another thing to help them pick themselves up. The two are very similar, but at the same time, very different.”

5. Hiding, and staying unknown

They might seem as though they do not care about what’s happening around them. But inside, they “often feel embarrassed and do not approach people for fear of being seen as a nuisance”.

At some point in time, we may have unknowingly ignored them; it could be as simple as avoiding eye contact. But really, all they’re looking for is just to be acknowledged as human.

In Singapore, if you need social assistance, or if you want to help a homeless person, please call the ComCare hotline at  1800-222-0000. 

We never know how a small gesture or a warm smile could brighten up these homeless senior citizens’ day, or anyone in fact!

Source: Lianhe ZaoBao, Youth.SG

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Written by

Jia Ling

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