We follow the steps of a senior social worker who works for a transitional shelter, and found out what a home looks like to her residents.
We arrive at Block 1, Jalan Kukoh, and are greeted by the sight of brightly painted, colourful HDB blocks. Few realise that behind these walls lie stories of pain and struggle, but also that of hope and recovery. This is home to New Hope Community Services, which provides temporary shelter for individuals and families who need a roof over their heads. It is where social workers and volunteer managers like Natalie and Peck Sian work tirelessly every day to help residents reconnect with the community and give them a chance to start over.
Meet Peck Sian
Senior social worker Peck Sian, 45, who has worked more than 10 years in the sector, shares that there is no such thing as a “typical day”.
“Every day is quite different,” she reveals. Peck Sian and her team of eight social workers conduct daily shelter visits, meeting with and counselling the residents. They face multiple challenges and issues, but the two main basic needs that need addressing are employment and housing. New Hope Community Services aims to help them navigate through their crises with a range of resources including career coaching.
Being homeless is a very traumatic experience for some of them.
Senior Social Worker at New Hope Community Services
There are many misperceptions about homelessness
“The stereotypical image that comes to mind about the homeless is an elderly person collecting cardboard or people sleeping in fast food outlets,” says Peck Sian. Other negative descriptions that come to mind are “unkempt”, “lazy”, “irresponsible”, and “unmotivated”. “Some people may think that if they are not helping themselves, why should we help them? But there are many other issues that have led to their current circumstances that many people don’t see and don’t understand,” she explains.
Not everyone falls into that stereotype
Some of the residents at New Hope had made poor financial decisions and had to sell their homes to repay certain debts. There are also cases of individuals who have gone through difficult divorces and can no longer live in their matrimonial homes with their children. Others have been estranged from their families and have been forced to move out.
What does a home mean for all of us?
“It’s a roof over our heads, and a place of comfort we go back to at the end of a hard day. It is a basic need many of us take for granted,” says Peck Sian.
Not having shelter often leads to serious health issues, due to the lack of proper sleep and rest. Maintaining good health is crucial in helping these residents secure a stable job, and overcoming their financial problems.
The job of a social worker at New Hope may be challenging, but the satisfaction in helping the residents get back on their feet is indescribable. One of Peck Sian’s most memorable cases was a young couple with two sons, aged 1 and 3. The family was estranged from their in-laws, and could not afford housing of their own. The father did not have a steady job, and the mother struggled with a hearing impairment. While New Hope provided temporary shelter, social workers also stepped in to help counsel and reconcile the family with their in-laws. Today, they are reunited and living as one happy family.
What makes a community?
At Jalan Kukoh, the bonds within the community run strong. So much so that when one resident moved out, she chose to live near Jalan Kukoh to stay connected and help other residents through their journey of recovery.
To social workers and volunteer managers like Peck Sian and Natalie, it is people coming together to help one another, no matter their circumstances.
This place isn’t just a block of flats, it’s a community, a family. We are in this together, so let’s help one another.
Senior social worker at New Hope Community Services
Special thanks to Nicholas, our volunteer photographer, who shot the photos in this story!