Not Every Old Homeless Man You Read in an Online Story is Homeless
Have you seen this on your Facebook wall?
It has been making its round on the Internet for the past two days. The people behind Humans of Singapore page ran a story about a supposedly homeless man in Chinatown.
The story reads:
“I’m 71 years old. I got no house, so I put cardboard on floor and sleep here. Sometimes I work and get money to pay for one night at someone’s place and clean my clothes. But sometimes it rain, so you wake up and got clothes still wet, but you wear them still, because what can you do?”
“Uncle, what sort of job do you do?”
“Different job. Once a day at 7pm man come and drive us to Keppel. I drive jeep or van and carry heavy item. I get 15-20 dollar every day I work, but sometimes if got no work then got no pay. So every day have to budget and eat. But the man don’t care if we earn or not, he only take us there and bring us back to Chinatown.”
“Uncle, do you have any family here?”
“I had one family very old but he died right here 3 days ago after falling asleep, no one know what happened. I call police. They come, take report. Other time when people die and you call them, they ask you to come to station, write report and name, and sometimes you get 50 dollars for reporting. Happened 4-5 times already in Chinatown, cannot remember any more. Money very hard to come by you see.”
“Then how do you manage?”
“Eat carefully, always eat 1 dollar bread in morning. Spend about 15 dollars a day, and sometimes sleep at friend’s house, so okay already.. But best day is when you get extra job to fix someone’s car because they don’t know how to fix. That day you get 25 dollar extra. And then you know what you can buy for breakfast? Roti Prata!”
It even ran a donation drive. Last check at 4PM indicated that they have raised USD1,363, and the donation drive will run for another nine days to end on 20 Nov.
Heartwarming isn’t it?
…. THIS IS NO HOMELESS MAN!!
SO WHO IS THIS MAN?
Saw how well-dressed and clean this man is in the photo? And he even has his own clean cup and bowl. I was suspicious from the start, so I launched an investigation and found out these:
– The man in the photo is Uncle Chung (Won’t disclose his full name here.)
– Uncle Chung really does spend a fair bit of time at Chinatown Complex.
– His wife, Aunty Chung, runs an alteration shop at Chinatown Complex. And know what? He was sitting right beside the shop when the photo was taken.
– Yup, Aunty Chung’s shop is just behind the white wall. It’s quite easy to find, the shop goes by Uncle Chung’s surname.
– Aunty Chung is a very distinguished-looking woman of grace. At work, she likes to wear beautiful cheongsam or well-tailored dresses that she’s made herself. Her hair’s often swept up in an up-do and yes, she wears make-up. Nope, the couple does not look anything even near homeless.
– Uncle and Aunty Chung live with their daughter, who is quoted to be very well-educated and visits the shop sometimes.
– The tenants nearby all know of Uncle Chung and confirmed that he is NOT homeless or bordering on poverty. He sleeps and eats very well. Even the cleaner at Chinatown Complex recognizes Uncle Chung and confirms that Uncle Chung hangs around his wife’s shop most afternoons. And yes, the cleaner also said Uncle Chung sleeps and eats very well.
SO WHERE DID THAT HOMELESS STORY COME FROM???
Honestly, if it ain’t so tragic, it’ll be almost funny.
You see, a homeless man passed away at Chinatown Complex last Friday. The police and even the media were there to cover the story.
So when Humans of Singapore went down to Chinatown Complex and chanced upon Uncle Chung just sitting at his usual spot and they got to talking… things got complicated and confusing. Uncle Chung spoke a smattering of English and the young man from Humans of Singapore could not speak Mandarin or dialects.
Many (and we mean, really MANY!!) things got lost in translation. Uncle Chung was talking about the deceased homeless man, and the Humans of Singapore guy thought Uncle Chung was pouring his poor homeless heart out.
Maybe there was no ill intent on the part of the blokes over at Humans of Singapore. In fact, I’ll even go so far as to say I really do like their page! But, I do have a problem with them not coming clean once they found out that the story that they broke was not true at all.
HOW ARE UNCLE CHUNG AND AUNTY CHUNG NOW?
I’d spoken with Aunty Chung today and she was very very very distressed and stressed. Firstly, she is extremely angry that Uncle Chung’s photo has been used to raise money (initially for Uncle Chung’s supposedly homeless state). That’s scamming. Her words, not mine.
Secondly, she’s also disturbed by the fact that the state of her family has been painted so so so wrong in the public space. She is so wary of people’s inquisitive looks and the probing from people looking for stories that she has asked Uncle Chung to stay home.
She also shared with me that Sin Ming newspaper has already done an interview with her yesterday to clarify the story.
Lesson to learn there: Not every homeless man you read about in an online story is a homeless man.
So, don’t believe everything you read on the Internet.
And news sites should behave responsibly too. Don’t be over-eager to be the newsbreaker, and don’t be over-zealous to share a story that has not been verified. The more followers you have, the more you ought to behave in a responsible and ethical manner.
I want all online tabloids and rumour mills to hear this.