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Homeless shelter closes after authorities suspend its fund-raising efforts over governance concerns

SINGAPORE — Crisis Centre (Singapore) has had to close its two shelters for homeless men after the authorities suspended its fundraising efforts in August last year over questions about its governance.

Homeless shelter closes after authorities suspend its fund-raising efforts over governance concerns

Crisis Centre Singapore, a homeless shelter for men, said on Aug 3, 2020 that it has closed owing to a lack of funds.

  • Crisis Centre (Singapore) was a homeless shelter for men set up in December 2017
  • It had repeatedly faced scrutiny from the authorities over its fundraising practices
  • The Commissioner of Charities suspended fundraising by the shelter in August last year
  • Soon after, its operators warned that the shelter was in financial trouble

 

SINGAPORE — Crisis Centre (Singapore) has had to close its two shelters for homeless men after the authorities suspended its fundraising efforts in August last year over questions about its governance.

The organisation, which was registered as a charity in May 2018, said that it had already been struggling to keep operations afloat after being served a suspension order due to “serious concerns” about its governance and record-keeping practices.

On its website, it is stated that the centre is run by three individuals: Mr Dennis Lee Wen Da, a director of a public relations consultancy, Mr Jordan Alsagoff, a writer, and Mr Darren Tan Cher Wei, a financial consultant.

In a Facebook post on Monday (Aug 3), it said that it was founded in December 2017 with the aim of eradicating homelessness in Singapore.

“We set out to build a shelter, a home for the homeless. A place where they could come back after a long day of work and have a warm meal and feel safe while they rested at night,” it said.

It also said that it had requested but failed to receive funding and support from the Ministry of Social and Family Development (MSF), which oversees the centre.

In the meantime, it had continued to work towards its dream of building a complex to house 200 homeless individuals and a team of professional support staff members to help residents with their problems.

“We fundraised aggressively, wanting to achieve our goal to eradicate homelessness in five years by the end of 2022. In our one year of fundraising, we managed to expand and double our capacity by opening another shelter at 150D Joo Chiat Terrace,” the centre said.

Its first shelter is located at 150F Joo Chiat Terrace. There are a total of 24 beds across both shelters, although this has been halved since the circuit breaker in April and May to curb the spread of Covid -19 and in line with safe distancing requirements.

IN 'DIRE STRAITS' EARLY THIS YEAR

The shelter had already signalled that it would struggle to stay afloat without funding as early as August last year.

At that time, Dr Ang Hak Seng, the Commissioner of Charities, had issued a six-month suspension of fundraising activities by the shelter after receiving feedback on its appeals.

"Investigations to date have raised serious concerns about the charity’s governance, record-keeping practices and ability to be accountable to its donors," Dr Ang said in a statement then.

He added that the suspension was imposed to "safeguard the public interest" pending further investigations.

In a statement the same month, Crisis Centre (Singapore) called the suspension “excessive” and said that it would “deplete (the shelter’s) reserves entirely”.

In February this year, the suspension was extended for another three months after MSF informed the Commissioner of Charities that it needed more time to finalise its investigations.

The extension was to "ensure the continued protection of the public pending MSF's investigations,” Dr Ang said in a statement in February.

With the second extension, Crisis Centre (Singapore) sounded the alarm again over its ability to continue operations.

In a Facebook post on Feb 14, it said that the three-month extension would leave the shelter in “dire straits” as it had depended on its reserves almost entirely over the previous six months.

Its overheads, which include the rental for its two shelters, workers' salaries, food and essentials for residents, amounted to over S$16,000 a month.

It added that MSF was “fully aware” of its monthly expenditure and “a simple calculation” would show that the shelter will be unable to sustain its operations for the next three months based on its reserves alone.

Mr Lee, who is the president of the shelter, declined to comment on the investigation’s impact on the shelter’s closure when TODAY approached him on Tuesday.

However, he said that of the nine residents who had been staying at the shelter, three had moved to Change Community Services, a voluntary welfare organisation that provides services for the disadvantaged and marginalised. The others had found alternative housing with the help of their social workers.

Four staff members from the shelter had also been let go.

DID NOT CONDUCT FUNDRAISING PROPERLY

On June 30, the Commissioner of Charities barred Mr Lee from conducting any fundraising appeals, including under any other charities, from July 1.

Dr Ang said in a statement: “According to the findings, Mr Dennis Lee, who was in charge of the four fundraising appeals by the charity under investigation, did not administer the fundraising appeals properly and failed to ensure proper accountability over the funds received.” 

The shelter was also restricted from conducting any fundraising appeals until it met three conditions.

The first was to ensure that it implemented a proper standard operating procedure for fundraising, and had in place proper systems and controls for conducting any fundraising appeal.

The second was to ensure that the shelter had proper volunteer management systems and controls to ensure oversight of the fundraising appeal conducted by any of its volunteers.

The third was to obtain written approval from MSF for all the standard operating procedures, systems and controls stated in the first two conditions.

In its latest Facebook post on Monday, Crisis Centre (Singapore) said that its members will continue to advocate for and help the homeless in Singapore despite the shelter’s closure.

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