Story Of A Divorcee With No Place To Call Home
Meet Rahimah. A mom with three kids, freshly divorced and struggling to find a place to call home.
I came across Rahimah during the Bazaar Kampong Glam last weekend which takes place twice a month along Baghdad Street. She was selling her wares, and services ranging from henna drawings, to selling baby clothings, to mobile gadgets that she displays at her booth. Alongside her, busy on their tablets were her three kids - Razeem, Husaini and Amelia, all aged between 6-8 years of age. They sheepishly looked at me from the corner of their eyes while I spoke to their mom. What prompted me to write this article about her was her grit and determination to keep pressing and perservere to put her kids to school, juggle between the roles of a mom and having a full-time job and of course managing to put a roof over their heads.
Rahimah, a 33 year old accounts assistant, carried on to tell me that she had no choice but to find ways to make more money as she had recently lost her flat due to her divorce, she could have kept it if she had the means to pay the monthly installments, but alas, her income was not enough to sustain the maintenance of the flat that she and her ex-husband used to own. I'm compelled to write this article as I myself was facing this issue a few years back, and I found myself homeless and I was forced to either stay with my parents, which was not an option as I felt unwanted in the home by my siblings; or rent out a room long term. I truly understood Rahimah's predicament and this is what's driving many of us to leave the country as this country grows more and more reserved for the filthy rich.
The Culture Of Settling Down Early.
Usually for us Malays, we tend to get married at a tender young age of 23 or so, fresh out of school and maybe with just a few years working experience before we tie the knot with our better half. More often than not, we move in with our parents or in-laws to await for the completion of our BTO flat. Now here is where I believe things may turn for better, or for worse.
What happens here is that you have a newcomer into the house-hold, trying to jump start his/her life to fuse in with the lifestyle conditions of your family. If it works, that's great, but what happens if it doesn't? In the year 2016 according to the Department of Statistics, there were 7 per 1000 men who got divorced. That's 39,200 divorce cases just in the year 2016 alone.
Kampung Spirit Overflowed?
In the older days where the kampung spirit was more prevalent, there was a code amongst family and neighbors alike. We're bound by our culture and openness to one another, not really obliged but eager to help another one whenever they're in need. But as Singapore got more and more advanced and developed, kampungs were razed and demolished to make way for HDB flats. Then came the ridiculous restrictions of getting flats of different sizes such as:-
And we're just talking about HDB flats, not landed properties because for the lower income families, they can't afford such luxury living!
If we were in another country, there wouldn't be the problem of acquiring cheap, spacious and luxurious homes to live in! I seriously envy my friends from overseas who talk about having their meets at their great-grandparents home during festive periods. It became so much similar to a symbolic figure-the home- that they intend to carry the tradition of meeting at their ancestors home for every Hari Raya! Here in Singapore, let me ask you guys, do you get to meet at your grandparents place that your parents used grow up as babies or celebrate during their festive period? High chances that our grandparents relocated to live in a smaller house, or with one of their children!
Nostaligic nodes aside, what I'm trying to say is that; it's difficult for divorcees with two-three kids in tow to seek spacious and affordable homes to live in while they rebuild their new life again.
Divorcee With No Home-Rebuild. Restart.
Easy for us to say. Difficult for those suffering from this plight to carry out. To actually regain the opportunity to get a chance at buying another flat, the divorcee has to wait at least a year or two to gain enough savings in his/her CPF to snag a chance at getting a flat.
To quote my very own experience. I got married at the age of 25. I applied for BTO the same year. Lived with my in-laws and my house was to be ready in 3-4 years time. It got extended and the key collections were only ready by late 2015, early 2016. Before that, my marriage was already on the rocks. My $90,000 worth of CPF money was already pumped into the flat, and I opted to forfeit the money as I wanted my ex-wife and son to live comfortably without thinking of paying too much for the flat in the future.
It took me 1-2 years to get back my CPF up in a healthy balance before I was eligible to re-apply again. But during those two years it was hell for me. I had to rent, bump in with friends at their homes and even trouble my parents whose home was already camped out with people.
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