Helping the Homeless

This Unsung Hero has turned around the lives of many, returning destitute persons to their families and the community.

“60 and sexy”, “older and wiser”. The knick-knacks decorating Mrs Soh-Tan Bee Eng’s desk show that, for her, age is no barrier.

For more than 38 years, the 61-year-old has served in various departments in the Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports (MCYS).

Now a Senior Staff Officer in the Destitute Persons Service, she helps the homeless find jobs, accommodation and financial assistance. They are often alcoholics, gamblers, or have mental disorders. “These are people who have messed up their lives,” she says. “The most challenging part is how to make them realise their mistakes, stand up again and face life.”

Once the homeless enter one of the Ministry’s 10 welfare homes, they often lack motivation to return to the community as they are well cared for there.

A long-term resident at Angsana Welfare Home feared using his money, despite having enough to move out and sustain himself. Mrs Soh-Tan convinced him to move to a community home where he could enjoy better facilities and living arrangements.

She once scoured a Chua Chu Kang hawker centre to identify a client with dementia, asking around with a photo until someone recognised the woman.

An inspiration to younger colleagues for her dedication and resourcefulness, Mrs Soh-Tan credits her Chinese education for imparting “responsibility, sincerity and respect for our work”. In recent years, finding Christianity also strengthened her commitment to helping the needy.

Even as she jests about retiring soon, she muses: “Working directly with destitute persons, we learn more about problems in society. We should take pride in our work and show that we sincerely want to help them.”

This is the second in a series to celebrate those working behind the scenes to keep our daily operations running smoothly. For previous stories, visit our Unsung Heroes section.
    Jul 18, 2011
    Siti Maziah Masramli
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