SINGAPORE: National Development Mimister Desmond Lee is being showered with widespread praise on social media for his hands-on involvement in helping an elderly hoarder in West Coast GRC. Joining the volunteers from various community partners, the Minister actively participated in the physically demanding task of cleaning and transforming the senior citizen’s home from a cluttered hazard into a liveable space.

The initiative was spearheaded by Helping Joy Ltd, a volunteer group dedicated to assisting lower-income families in decluttering and sprucing up their homes. They often respond to urgent requests from hospitals, social workers, and agencies, especially when a family member is being discharged and needs a safe, clean living environment.

In this latest project, the elderly resident had accumulated a significant amount of clutter over the years, creating a hazardous living situation exacerbated by his recent fall. The flat was not only filled with personal items but also flammable liquids and overloaded electrical sockets, leaving little space to move or sit.

Despite the significant physical and emotional toll of decluttering, a group of volunteers including Mr Lee, led by Helping Joy, spent an entire day clearing and cleaning the flat.

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On how he became involved in the project, Mr Lee said: “We’ve been trying to find ways to help frontliners like Helping Joy to do this important work, by bringing in partners to coordinate and support. My team and I had worked with them in Boon Lay a few times, and we wanted to see what more we can do together.”

The decluttering team was complemented by partner contractors who repainted the flat, fixed lighting, and replaced old furniture. The Ministry of National Development’s Municipal Services Office (MSO) and Housing & Development Board (HDB) also provided support, helping to sort items alongside the volunteers and homeowner.

Mr Lee said in a Facebook post that the West Coast PA Residents Network (RN) helped in transporting items, with one senior member of the network personally offering emotional support to the homeowner. Mr Lee’s West Coast Town Council facilitated the process by notifying residents, providing bins and skid tanks, and coordinating conservancy contractors. They also had a lift maintenance team on standby to ensure the smooth operation of the building’s lifts during the project.

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Additional support came from the Viriya Community Services CREST team, which focuses on mental wellness. Their social work professional not only assisted the homeowner emotionally but also actively participated in the decluttering process. Mr Lee added that the Agency for Integrated Care (AIC), which was coordinating the elderly man’s hospital discharge and care, worked behind the scenes to ensure all aspects of the transition were managed smoothly.

Reflecting on the effort, Minister Lee noted, “It took many hours to declutter and makeover a flat that had been hoarded with things for many years. Not to mention the visits and coordination meetings before the work started. The many hands which worked together made a difference, and the flat was transformed. But the work is far from over.”

The Minister acknowledged the ongoing challenge of maintaining decluttered spaces, especially for elderly residents. As there is no definitive medical solution for those battling hoarding tendencies, continuous support and regular visits from volunteer groups remain essential.

Mr Lee also highlighted the broader need for coordinated action in tackling such issues, especially with Singapore’s ageing population. He mentioned ongoing efforts to strengthen alliances between the government, volunteer groups, social service agencies, healthcare providers, and the community to provide sustained support for vulnerable residents.

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The Minister’s direct participation in thr project has been met with particular appreciation online, with Singaporeans praising him for setting a good example.

Many online welcomed his willingness to “get his hands dirty” as a testament to his commitment to public service. Comments on his social media post reflect a sense of admiration and respect, with Singaporeans across social media agreeing that it is heartening to see a Minister not just overseeing but actively engaging in such efforts to uplift ordinary citizens.

Photographs of Minister Lee helping to clear out clutter and clean the flat have been widely shared on both Internet forums and messaging platforms, amplifying the positive feedback. His efforts have resonated particularly well with those advocating for better living conditions for vulnerable residents.

Many social media users have expressed hope that such hands-on involvement from government leaders will inspire more collaborative and effective community support for the elderly and lower-income families.