Elderly woman soon to be homeless

Leong Sze Hian

Madam Tan (not her real name), is 60-years old and unemployed. She has been told to leave the homeless shelter, which has been her home for the past 15 months, by 27 June

Mdm Tan, who has Secondary Three education, had been working as a drink stall helper and paid $5 per hour.  She quit about two months ago due to health reasons.  Her medical expenses are paid entirely by Medifund.

She has been getting financial assistance of $250 for 6 months, $270 for 3 months, $200 for 3 months and food vouchers of $100 for 2 months.


Suicide 5 times

Mdm Tan has attempted suicide five times, as a result she has hospitalised between two to nine days, and has been warned that she may be charged and jailed.

Her retired husband is 66, and she has three children – son (age 40) and two daughters (age 35 and 42).


She used to stay with her family in an HDB flat until she was not allowed to stay, because she had pawned all her jewellery which fetched about $30,000 to pay for her son’s gambling debts.

Her son works odd jobs and lives in a one-room HDB rental flat with Mdm Tan’s mother.

After Mdm Tan was locked out of her HDB flat, she stayed for about a year with her son and mother. She worked for about a year as a factory operator at $5 an hour to help her son pay his gambling debts.

When she could not work anymore, she was told to leave her son’s flat as well.

She was supposed to be on a Chinese television programme to share her plight, but she backed out because she did not want to embarrass her family.

Social workers have been visiting her family to try to get them to let her go back to live with them, by to no avail.

She has written about 50 postcards to her husband and daughters, but have never received any replies.

When I asked her if the financial assistance she has been getting is enough, she said, “Yes, I’m very thrifty.  I have gotten used to applying for review of my financial assistance every few months.  I even gave $10 twice to my shelter mate who is a single mother with a child but no money.”

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PS: Alex Lew, Lee Mei Wei, Ko Siew Huey and Leong Sze Hian provide free financial counseling every Thursday from 8 – 10 pm., at Block 108, Potong Pasir Ave 1.


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.