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    Dec 18, 2013

    One-man helpline got 200 calls in three days

    YOU can't blame him for panicking just a little.

    Community Chest's one-man hotline, Mr Eric Tan, has had his phone ringing off the hook - sometimes in the wee hours of the morning.

    On Dec 2, the ComChest associate director became, singlehandedly, the fund-raising arm's 24-hour hotline, promising to answer all calls and meet needy callers within 48 hours or, in urgent cases, immediately.

    In the first three days, the 42-year-old former teacher picked up about 200 calls, mostly from people asking for money to pay off debt or bills. One caller even asked him what the date was.

    He has not missed a single call, except when attending to another. The number of calls has since dropped to about 10 a day.

    "The first few days were the most crazy," said the unmarried man, who can hand out up to $200 to those who need it.

    "But (for) those who already have access to long-term help, we can't really help them," he said. His main role is to link callers with community resources. He has met about eight callers so far.

    One of them, Mr K. S. Teh, 58, had been living in West Coast Park for a few years, he said. The permanent resident claimed he had not eaten for three days.

    Mr Tan gave him $200 and referred him to a family service centre.

    When contacted, the divorcee said that he slept in playgrounds, temples or in Housing Board void decks. He did not elaborate on how he became homeless.

    "I was very grateful," said the childless man.