Publichouse.sg visited the family, along with concerned Singaporeans Mr Ravi Philemon and his wife, and others, several weeks ago, just after the fire gutted the common space on the 8th floor where their flat is located.
Mr Aheairy has 3 children from his previous marriage. All 3 children have married and are living in their own rental flats. Mdm Sharipah, who was also previously married, has 3 children of her own as well. She has lost contact with 2 of them, while the 3rd lives on her own.
Mr Aheairy had sold his previous flat because of his divorce to his previous wife. The profit from the flat was divided between him and his former wife, leaving little profit, after paying off his commitments.
Mdm Sharipah had had a flat together with one of her daughters but they had to sell it when her daughter got married.
The couple’s only refuge was to put up with Mr Aheairy’s daughter in the rental flat at Blk 52, along with his daughter’s 4 young children, making it a total of 8 persons living in the small flat.
The fire that gutted the corridor had also destroyed all of the couple’s possessions, including important documents, their work clothes and the bicycle which Mr Aheairy used to ride to work.
How the fire started is still under investigation. Mischief cannot be ruled out. It would be unfair to insinuate that people like Mr Aheairy are actually the ones who started the fire.
In the meantime, Mr Aheairy has been appealing - to no avail - to the Housing and Development Board (HDB) for a rental flat for him and his wife. He has also approached various Members of Parliament (MP) who have tried to help him by appealing on his behalf. “I must have appealed more than 10 times,” Mr Aheairy says.
Mr Philemon had also written on Mr Aheairy’s behalf to the HDB and the Ministry for National Development (MND) on 11 May. It has been almost 3 weeks but Mr Philemon has yet to receive any replies to his letter, besides an auto-acknowledgment.
The Bishan-Toa Payoh Town Council had issued a S$150 fine to Mr Aheairy for leaving his possessions, including his bicycle, in the common area.
Mr Philemon wrote to the Town Council to seek a waiver of these fines.
He has yet to hear from them too.
Mr Aheairy says he is not seeking donations or any special treatment. He acknowledges his responsibility for keeping his possessions in the common area but he feels he didn’t really had a choice. Where else should he keep them, given that he has no place of his own, and his daughter’s flat is already full, and all his appeals for a rental flat were rejected?
Mr Aheairy used to ride his bicycle to work, until it got destroyed in the fire. He says it was cheaper for him to travel by bicycle than to use public transport. He had been working odd jobs previously but he recently managed to find full-time employment. It pays him S$1,300 a month. It is an amount with which he could service the rent of a rental flat.
Mdm Sharipah too hopes to go back to work once she has recovered from the surgery to her foot which she underwent recently.
About two weeks ago, the couple again approached their MP and are awaiting the outcome of this latest appeal.
In the meantime, they have to contend with sleeping on the floor of their daughter’s flat.
On 11 May, Mr Philemon donated some mattresses and pillows to the couple so that they do not have to sleep on the bare concrete floor.
A kind-hearted Singaporean who came to know of their plight is also donating a bicycle to Mr Aheairy, so that he can cycle to work again.
While the news report on the illegal “dumping” of bulky items on common areas, and various parties point the finger at those responsible, perhaps we should also realise that there are good reasons why some have no choice but to leave their belongings in public areas.
In a case like Mr Aheairy, who had no choice but to sell his previous HDB flat because of divorce, where is he to go, given that his children too live in small rental units and have their own families to care for?
And as his case shows, appealing to the authorities seems to be a fruitless undertaking. What then is he and his wife to do now?
The only option seems to be to rent from the open market. But with prices at such high levels, what would Mr Aheairy and his wife live on, after paying the rent?
*Special thanks to Ravi Philemon for additional reporting.
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