On May 12, community group Project Hills shared the plight of a Singaporean gravedigger known as Tok Adi (not his real name).For the past three years, Tok Adi had been living in a forested area near Lim Chu Kang Cemetery.
A makeshift hut mainly made out of discarded plywood, canvas and other waste materials, was what he used to call home for himself, his wife and their 8-year-old son.
Their home didn't have a steady supply of water or electricity.
In order to get water, he dug a well.
However, the well was already drying up when the team from Project Hills visited the family.
The family also depended on a basic catchment where they collected rainwater but since there wasn't a proper filtration system, the water wasn't clean.
Instead of electricity, the family had been using a generator as a power source.
Living alone for now
Recently, however, Tok Adi has been living alone.
Speaking to Mothership, spokesperson for Project Hills Abdullah Ahmad told us that they have sent his wife and son back to Batam.
Both his wife and son are not Singaporeans and their visas are expiring soon.
"The husband and wife are close, so going back to Batam was not an easy decision (for them) as they'd be separated."
Since they have been apart, Abdullah told us that a volunteer who has always been with Tok Adi has since taught him how to video call his family back in Batam.
Received S$10,000 in donations
Since Tok Adi's story was first shared, Project Hills managed to raise S$10,000 for Tok Adi and his family.They have also been helping him to secure stable accommodation and with other administrative matters as he is illiterate.
He had applied for a rental flat in end-February of this year and the application was successful.
However, he was unaware of this development until Project Hills reached out to him.
In a statement by the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), MSF clarified that the Housing and Development Board (HDB) had informed him - via a letter sent to his sister's address, which he provided - that his rental application was successful.
"Volunteers recently helped him to register online for flat selection and 'Tok Adi' was on the waitlist to be allocated a rental flat."
No longer rough sleeping
MSF added that they have been assisting Tok Adi together with Fei Yue Family Service Centre (FSC) and HDB.
MSF is processing his application for ComCare Short-to-Medium Term Assistance and has been providing him with interim financial assistance since May 15.
Tok Adi was also placed in a shelter on the same day so that he was no longer rough sleeping.
While it typically takes up to three months for the allocation of a rental flat, HDB has expedited the collection of the keys for Tok Adi when it learnt about his rough sleeping from the Social Service Office (SSO).
He received the key and moved into his rental flat on May 19.While Tok Adi already has a roof over his head, his wife and son are still in Batam until further notice.
Project Hills' next goal is to reunite the family so they can live together under one roof.
Here is MSF's statement in full:
"We would like to thank Project Hills and Blessings In Disguise for supporting “Tok Adi” and his family with their immediate needs, including essential groceries and financial assistance. MSF has been assisting “Tok Adi” together with Fei Yue Family Service Centre (FSC) and HDB. He is no longer rough sleeping.
We provided “Tok Adi” with interim financial assistance on 15 May, and are processing his application for ComCare Short-to-Medium Term Assistance. We also helped place him in a shelter on 15 May, and understand that his family has returned home to Indonesia.
We understand that “Tok Adi” had applied for a HDB rental flat in end Feb 2020. On 12 Mar, HDB informed him - via a letter sent to his sister’s address, which he provided - that his rental application was successful. Volunteers recently helped him to register online for flat selection and “Tok Adi” was on the waitlist to be allocated a rental flat. While the allocation of a rental flat typically takes up to 3 months, HDB expedited his collection of the keys when it learnt about his rough sleeping from the SSO last week. On 19 May, the FSC’s social worker accompanied “Tok Adi” to HDB to collect the keys to his rental flat, and he moved into his flat on the same day.
The community plays an important role in partnering us to look out for persons whom they come across rough sleeping. If members of public come across someone who needs shelter, please contact the PEERS Office at [email protected] or call the ComCare Call hotline at 1800-222-0000."
Top image courtesy of Project Hills.