Mr Singh and Tinku, his 4-year-old dog and only companion. Mr Singh has requested for us to not reveal his identity.
Having a home that is clean and nice is more than just about the aesthetics. Psychological studies have proven that visual surroundings in the home impacts mood and mental health. Project HomeWorks homeowner, who only wanted to be identified as Mr Singh, could also testify to that.
As someone who loves interior decorating and is also working through a history of depression, the peeling walls and ceilings of his two-room rental flat was particularly demoralising for Mr Singh. The recent passing of his mother also intensified his feelings of despair and loneliness.
“I feel like my house is very horrible, and it looks very ugly. It (reminds me that) I’m very poor, I can’t afford anything, and people always look down on me,” he said.
It was clear that Mr Singh’s home of over 20 years used to be bright, clean and a source of pride. In the first few years that he moved in, Mr Singh excitedly displayed his love for colours by adding cheery yellow and blue paint on the wall and decorated with a seaside themed strip of wallpaper.
“I liked the colours but my mother didn’t,” Mr Singh chuckled and said cheekily. As an only child in a single-parent household, Mr Singh’s closest companion was his mother, who worked hard caring for seniors at a nursing home to support them both.
“I saw my mother suffering alot so I left my studies. When I was about 14 or 15 years old, I also went out to work in hotels, as a security guard, (and) a lot of other jobs,” said the 46-year-old.
But between financial difficulties and growing health problems at an early age, Mr Singh developed depression just as his mother had many years ago.
“I have nerve problems (from neuromuscular disorder) that started when I was 25,” he shared. “Things will fall from my hands and I can’t concentrate at work. Sometimes I (hear) voices too and my doctor said I can’t work anymore.”
Mr Singh has been medically certified to be unfit for work for 20 years and has been relying on financial aid from the Social Service Office.
For the last 10 years, he’s had to live with a bed bug infestation and paint haphazardly falling off the ceiling, sometimes even into his food. Money was prioritised for food, bills and medical appointments. Hiring someone to help with a paint job was out of the question.
“It affected me. And sometimes when my pastor or other people come, I feel very ashamed. Last time I kept my house in very good condition, and neighbours would say my house looks very nice. So I want that feeling to come back,” he said.
Like many homeowners served by Project HomeWorks, Mr Singh lives in isolation, depending on the kindness of a few friends in his neighbourhood who run errands for him. One of the biggest blessings in his life was a visit by the nearby South Central Community Family Service Centre.
In addition to donating new furniture, the centre also referred his home to Project HomeWorks. Our team of volunteers spent 2 sessions scraping the walls and ceiling to get rid of all the peeling paint before applying layers of sealant and a refreshing coat of white paint.
When the Habitat Singapore team visited and spoke with him at the second painting session, it was clear how the first round of painting had uplifted Mr Singh’s mood.
“I’m very happy. In the room, I keep looking at the walls and how my room feels so different now. It looks so clean and nice, and that makes me so happy,” he said excitedly.
We may not be able to bring back his health or alleviate the pain of losing his mother, but the simple act of restoring his home to a decent state was able to lift his spirits.
Every time you make a donation to Habitat Singapore, you enable us to restore dignity and hope to people across Singapore who do not have a decent place to call home. Please consider supporting our work through a monthly donation so we can continue to identify individuals like Mr Singh and mobilise volunteer teams to serve them.