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  • Habitat for Humanity Singapore

From hurdle to haven: Home as a refuge in times of crisis

The circuit breaker has been a very different experience, depending on who you ask. For some of us, it's been a comfortable adjustment to the "work from home" life. But for some vulnerable families like Mdm Odah, staying home means getting stuck in an unhealthy home environment with no reprieve.

A fall from years ago has left Mdm Odah, 61, with severe leg pains and mobility issues that make cleaning and cooking difficult to do while standing.

Before the COVID-19 outbreak, Mdm Odah was still getting by with a little help from neighbours and friends to bring her out in her wheelchair to Geylang Serai market for groceries and home cleaning, as well as a home care nurse who would help her with medication and therapy exercises.

These trips out and short walks downstairs used to help her manage the pain in her leg. "Now (after) so many days (that I) never get to go out, my leg (becomes) more painful. I can try do a little bit of exercise slowly at home," shared Mdm Odah.

As a single mum, she still powers through the usual household chores by sitting down to manage the home she lives in with her 2 adult sons in their 30s - 1 diagnosed with low IQ while the other with Bipolar Disorder & Schizophrenia.

They share a one-room rental flat in Owen Road where 3 beds fill up the communal living space. The lack of dividing rooms meant the bed bug infestation that started in one part of the house quickly spread to all the 3 beds.

After a home assessment, our Project HomeWorks team knew that Mdm Odah's case had to be put on the list of urgent cases to be served during the circuit breaker period. They were confined to home that is already small for 3 people and made even smaller with clutter, and a growing bed bug infestation that could worsen the health of Mdm Odah and her 2 sons.

On 17th April, our team of 5 staff focused on discarding pest-infested furniture and carrying out the intensive cleaning needed to get rid of the infestation. The team also helped to de-clutter the home to set up 3 brand new beds and give Mdm Odah and her sons as much personal space as the house allowed.

“Last time there were so many bed bugs on the bed and on the pillow. At night time, I couldn't sleep and always wake 12am until 3am. My sons take medication so they don't know they get bitten. Now that Habitat helped to throw the old beds, I don't even find 1 bed bug anymore," shared Mdm Odah.

Seeing how much work the team put into transforming her house, Mdm Odah wanted to express her thanks: “I’m so sad I coudn't help but they did it very well.”

Not long after photos of Mdm Odah's case was shared, social enterprise Lina's Cafe reached out to us to support the family with freshly cooked meals 3 times a week during Ramadan.

Habitat has always been a firm believer of partnerships like this, where like-minded organisations can come together to create a greater impact than we ever could on our own.

If you have an idea on how to partner us and help support more vulnerable families like Mdm Odah, get in touch with our team at!


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