Stable housing crucial for single mums in S'pore to gain better employment, increase income: AWARE report

Stable housing allowed single mothers to maintain gainful employment and improve interpersonal relationships.

Andrew Koay | May 24, 2022, 01:52 PM

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Ensuring that single mothers have access to stable housing is crucial to getting them back on their feet again, women's advocacy group AWARE has found.

The organisation released a report on May 11 detailing the findings of a research-based service, ran between 2018 and 2021, that provided stable and decent housing for 18 low-income single mothers and 21 children.

A press release from AWARE highlighted some of the difficulties single mothers experienced with regard to housing.

"Single mothers do get help, but it takes a lot of processes, procedures and paperwork, and it can be tedious and troublesome," noted Farah (not her real name), a 22-year-old resident of AWARE's Support, Housing and Enablement (S.H.E.) Project.

“If another housing and service programme like S.H.E. was established, underage unwed mothers would feel more supported and have time to upgrade themselves, get jobs and care for their children. Usually, we have no place to go and no one to turn to.”

Positive outcomes

The S.H.E. Project found that positive outcomes for the mothers involved included:

  • Securing permanent housing
  • Keeping gainfully employed
  • Experiencing improvements in interpersonal relationships

Of the 18 mothers, 12 — whose stay spanned six months or longer — were interviewed on a quarterly basis; all had previously experienced domestic abuse.

They were housed within four apartments — a mix of condominiums and public housing — that were sponsored by a donor and managed by AWARE. The organisation also provided support programmes.

The 12 mothers ranged from 18 to 48 years in age; five were separated, two were divorced, and five had never been married.

During their time with the S.H.E Project, eight of the 12 mothers saw improvements in their employment situations and income, with median monthly income rising from S$500 before they entered S.H.E. to S$1,150 when the project concluded.

AWARE noted that having the security of a stable residence allowed three mothers the leeway to quit jobs with poor working conditions.

According to AWARE's full report, the project also saw eight of the families securing public rental flats, two moving out to rented rooms found on the open market, while the remaining two moved in with family and friends.

For some of the mothers, AWARE reported that having distance from their families allowed them to build healthier relationships.

Elizabeth Quek, the S.H.E. Project's "house mother" acknowledged the perseverance of the mothers involved in the project in the face of hardships.

"I was surprised at the sheer strength of their motivation," said Quek.

"In my 16 years as a social worker, I have never seen individuals turn their lives around as quickly and consistently as the S.H.E. residents."

"Housing does make a tangible difference"

AWARE's recommendations for the government included:

  • The creation of a Housing Development Board (HDB) unit to coordinate services for families transitioning to single-parent households
  • Allowing divorced single parents to receive HDB loans and levy waivers
  • Taking tense or abusive family relationships into account when assessing applicants’ housing options

AWARE's executive director Corinna Lim said that the report told a "hopeful story" while pointing out the vulnerability of unwed underage parents — who do not qualify for public rental housing — and those who come from families which have strained or abusive relationships.

"We know now that stable housing does make a tangible difference to so many other aspects of a family’s life," she said.

"Yet while we celebrate the progress made by the S.H.E. Project families, we recognise that they—and many other single-parent families across Singapore—continue to face varied obstacles to their security and quality of life."

AWARE's full report, titled "Why Stable Housing Matters", can be found here.

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Top image by Christian Chen via Unsplash.