Daughter became homeless caring for disabled mother

Published by The Online Citizen on September 25, 2012

By Leong Sze Hian

Rina (not her real name) who was living in a homeless shelter for women and children, came for financial counseling and have since brought other homeless people to us for financial counseling.

One day, she wrote a six-page letter telling her story as to how she became homeless, and her experience.

Her letter started with “Today, I am writing this because I don’t want people to go through life, as I have gone through”.

have edited her story as follows:-

“I have gone through a good life ever since I was young.  I have not gone through a hard life like I have gone through since 9 January 2010.

After we sold our 5-room HDB flat at 107A Punggol, it was my weakness that people took advantage of.

I was only thinking of my mom in the wheelchair, and there was no one helping us or supporting us with financial help or anything.

I was not working as I had resigned from my work to look after my mom.

But my sister and brother said that I give them only problem.

I wanted to give mom everything in the world, but I lost.  In the end, I am here and mom is in a nursing home.

It all started before we sold our flat in August 2009.

We made up my mind to sell, as we could not pay the HDB mortgage, after talking to the HDB branch officer.  The officer had suggested that we downgrade.

But everything went wrong.  No one to guide or help us.

I also approached the MP and she did write to HDB.

But there was no help.  I showed her the flat sales proceeds.  After seeing the sales proceeds, she said you will get $85,000.  It is a lot of money and don’t use it.  Then, she told me go to open market to rent a place, and she told me not to come to see her anymore.

Then, I got an open market flat rental at Bukit Panjang.  So, I went to see my new MP.

They all tell me to go to work, but they never think who can take care of mother.

Then my brother came and borrowed money from me, and I lent him a total of $30,000.  He told me that he will pay me every month rental, but he never answered my phone calls anymore or SMS anymore.

Then, my money was drying up, and I went to the MP for help. An HDB officer was there on one occasion.  When he heard my story, he said that the rental unit should be able to help, and asked me to wait for the answer.  But they didn’t answer me.  Then I went to see the MP again.  He said that they can’t help me.

There is a Shelter home that I and mom could stay there.  I felt depressed.

I called my step-sister, and she said, “come over there, whatever she eat we can share”.

So, on 5 May 2010, we left Bukit Panjang to stay with sister.

At sister’s place, she always get angry with mom.

Then, she asked me for sister and brother’s telephone number.  I told her that I don’t want to tell them that I am here.

Then, on 14 June 2010, step-sister ask mom for sister’s phone number and they (both sister and brother) came down.  Then, I ask mom if she wants to go with her. She said OK.

Then she left.  Sister talked to me and said to come to her home every morning to bath her and she will get a maid to look after her.

A few days I went there and there was a girl with a son staying there.  She never helped mom at all.  Sister asked me to teach that girl because the maid will be coming late.

Then, sister asked me not to come there anymore.

Then, I can’t see her anymore.

On 12 August 2010, sister called me and asked me why did I SMS a friend of mine and say that you are staying in hell.

On 13 August 2010 at 1.30 a.m. sister asked me to leave and I got nowhere to go.

So, I eventually ended up staying in my brother’s friend’s place, followed by my sister’s best friend’s place.

On 19 August 2010, I gave away my beloved dog Jeeven.  He was with me all the way till now.

On 23 August 2010, I wanted to see him but they never want to let me see.  I really miss him.

I stay there only four days.  But was like staying with a IMH case person.

Then I told my supervisor how I was feeling, then she said that I could come and stay in her place, with one condition – if she is around only I can go there and stay.

We go to work in the morning always.  If she work in the afternoon, I can’t come back home.

So, I have to stay in the work place or go for a bus ride so I can sleep in the bus.

I will take bus from Changi airport where I work to Punggol end.  I was mentally sick.  But I didn’t show to anyone.  I just was adjusting to everything.

Then on 15 September 2010, I talked to the social worker at the Centre about how I feel and what kind of problems I was going through.

Then she arranged for me to meet with the Shelter social worker, and she told me that on 18 September 2010, I can go and stay there.

Rina is now in the Interim Housing Sxheme sharing a 3-room HDB flat with another family of three.  She pays about $245 a month and everyone in the flat share the utility bill.

Rina has now crossed the HDB 30-month debarment period, and has successfully applied for a 2-room BTO flat which will be ready in a few years’ time.”


What Rina’s story highlights is perhaps the need for our housing policies to be more flexible. When a caregiver cannot work in order to take care of her disabled mother, there could be more financial counseling to advise her when she falls behind on her HDB mortgage payments and is advised to downgrade to a smaller flat – what are the financial numbers, are they eligible for another housing loan, etc?

If things don’t work out, the 30-month debarment period before anyone who has sold a HDB flat (including those who are foreclosed or can’t pay) can apply for a new HDB flat with a resale levy payable, or a HDB rental flat, could be more flexible.

Otherwise, some may end up homeless like Rina.

About the Author

Leong Sze Hian has served as the president of 4 professional bodies, honorary consul of 2 countries, an alumnus of Harvard University, authored 4 books, quoted over 1500 times in the media , has been a radio talkshow host, a newspaper daily columnist, Wharton Fellow, SEACeM Fellow, columnist for theonlinecitizen and Malaysiakini, executive producer of Ilo Ilo (40 international awards), Hotel Mumbai (associate producer), invited to speak more than 200 times in about 40 countries, CIFA advisory board member, founding advisor to the Financial Planning Associations of 2 countries. He has 3 Masters, 2 Bachelors degrees and 13 professional  qualifications.