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Access denied: Migrant worker sleeps at Hougang void deck after miscommunication with dormitory operator

For two nights, this migrant worker had no place to stay, and had to temporarily seek refuge at a void deck in Hougang after he was allegedly declined a spot at a dormitory.

When Shin Min Daily News received an email from a reader, they were directed to a man who was sleeping rough at the void deck of Block 137 Lorong Ah Soo over the weekend. 

According to the reader's understanding, the worker was left to the streets due to a dispute with the employer, as well as an issue with his accommodation arrangement.

When reporters of the Chinese daily visited the scene on Sunday (May 7), they found the man sleeping on a long bench at the void deck of the block with his luggage.

When interviewed, he revealed himself to be 46-year-old Chen Youhong, who hails from Hefei, Anhui province, China.

Speaking to Shin Min, the man said he decided to resign from his job as it didn't require him to work every day, which resulted in an unstable income.

When he informed his employer of his decision, he was told to relocate from his dormitory in Choa Chu Kang to Hougang.

"When I asked my boss why I needed to move, he said it's standard protocol, and told me to move out on either Wednesday or Friday. He also said that the company would provide transport for me as well," he added.

However, Chen was paranoid that if he were to get on the bus, he might be sent to the airport and be repatriated back to China, so he decided to get to the new dormitory on his own instead.

He did so on Saturday night and followed the address that his employer had provided – but when he reached the location, all he could find was a temple.

"I only saw one temple, there was no dormitory at all!" he told Shin Min.

Denied entry into dormitory

Chen also said that he had called the dormitory manager, but the other party did not respond. It was only after Chen had made a police report when he was told that the dormitory doesn't open its door on weekends.

Chen then discovered that the dormitory was actually located at a construction site opposite the temple.

"Manager Lee (dormitory manager) told me that the dormitory is closed on weekends. I was already given the address, but yet I was denied entry, isn't this making things difficult for me?" Chen said.

When Shin Min spoke to Lee on Sunday night, Lee said that he didn't pick up Chen's phone call as he was having dinner with his friends at that time.

He said he only knew that Chen was unable to find the location of the dormitory when the police called him.

"We originally arranged for him to move in on either Wednesday or Friday, but he decided to come on Saturday and missed the window," Lee explained.

"We also rent out the dormitory for others, and we couldn't let [Chen] in as the administrator isn't here during the weekend."

Faced with no options, Chen said he was hence forced to sleep at the void deck over the weekend.

Touched by residents' hospitality 

While Chen spent two nights at the void deck, some residents couldn't bear to see him without accommodation, and even went out of the way to offer food to him.

When Shin Min returned to the scene on Sunday night at around 8pm, a resident could be seen showing concern for Chen.

Chen then showed the reporter all the food that residents had given him, such as an orange, drinks and bottled water.

Resident Liu, when interviewed, said that she had specifically bought dinner for him, and even asked if he needed to charge his phone.

"I bought some food and drinks for him, and also told him that he could wash up at the coffee shop, but he told me not to worry, saying that someone nearby can help him charge his phone."

Liu also said that it rained heavily on Saturday night and offered to provide some clothing for him to change into, but Chen declined the offer.

"He came here alone and now doesn't have accommodation; we feel like we should help him," Liu said.

Chen said that he's still able to afford food, but still thanked the residents for their assistance.

Moved in on Monday morning

When Chen tried to move in to the dormitory on Monday morning, he was told by the administrator that the system didn't have his name and was declined entry once again.

Shin Min then contacted Lee, who said that the issue had been resolved and Chen was able to move in successfully. Chen confirmed this, and thanked the newspaper for their help.

Chen, who moved to Singapore in 2008, had been working here intermittently, leaving his 17-year-old daughter and wife back home.

Pay deducted

Chen also claimed that he had some dispute with his employer over his pay.

Right after he told his boss about his decision to quit, his salary for April had been slashed by a pretty significant amount, he claimed.

According to Chen, he was supposed to earn $11 per hour for his work, but was informed in April that his pay would be deducted to $7.50 per hour instead, on top of monthly deductions for accommodation and tool fees.

This would mean that Chen's initial $1,300 salary for April would now be $550.

Chen said: "$11 was the rate that my boss had promised me in the contract, and I suspect that after announcing my decision to quit, he deducted my money."

The boss, known as Guo, refuted Chen's claims, and told Shin Min that everything was according to the contract.

He also said that Chen had disliked the laborious nature of the work, and had once lodged a complaint against him for being rude which led to the pair fighting on work grounds.

When Shin Min brought up the fight, Chen said that the incident occurred a few years ago.

As of Shin Min's time of writing, Chen is currently waiting for the employer to pay all his remaining salary before returning home.

ALSO READ: 82-year-old man admits to living at Sin Ming void deck for a year, says his home's too stuffy

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