Press Statement By Julian Tan:
I would like to urge the Welfare Department to develop a proper mechanism or a solution to ensure that the homeless are being dealt with properly and have a safe place to go. More often than not, every case is unique and ‘has its own history’ leading to their current predicament. With proper psychiatric treatment or counseling, I am confident we will resolve some of these cases and help them get back to normal life.
Our team has been alerted to at least two such cases in just two months, not the typical ‘homeless’ wandering the street. These are people with places to stay, but perhaps due to some trauma or family issues or other psychological and emotional stresses that temporarily cause them to lose their senses. With proper professional intervention, they should be able to get back to everyday life.
In the latest cases, we were alerted to the situation when the public informed us of a homeless man, go by the surname of Mr. Sii, walking around and sitting in the walkway around 101 hawker center. The business operators in the area showed concern and even provided food for the man. After getting to know the neighborhood he is staying in by interviewing some of them, we were told that Mr. Sii has been in this mental stage for more than 10yrs. Likely due to some family issue that causes him to break down. We have alerted the authority and are confident that he will get back to everyday life with proper care.
Sarawak Minister of Welfare, Women, and Community Datuk Fatimah Abdullah has urged the public to notify the Welfare Department regarding any homeless issues. The government will then assist. However, in reality, even with an official report, the Welfare department tends to have many reasons and excuses to avoid the responsibility. And everyone knows, whenever the public faces an issue like this, there will be a tug-of-war between the police, Kementerian Kesihatan (hospital Sentosa), and the welfare department. In the end, the most are homeless will be taken away, only to be released back again, and in no time, the person will be seen again in the same place. The cycle continues. The matter needs the state government’s serious commitment and serious planning.
In our aspiration to be a developed city, the welfare of the people, including the poor and handicapped, is an essential fabric of a developed nation. The government should take prompt action, including a long-term solution to help these homeless obtain proper accommodations and professional help and eventually assimilate them into society. At the same time, it will also help maintain the good image of our city Kuching.
The matter needs state government serious commitment and planning. What is the current state government blueprint in addressing those who struggle with severe and persistent mental illness, or physical or intellectual disabilities, which require housing coupled with supportive services?
One thing is for sure. This is an issue that will not go away. It comes with any other city the aspire to become a modern, high-tech, conducive, and modern city. What sets this kind of city apart from just mere growth in population density is its ability to take care of the warfare of these people who need our help. That’s what makes us human, and that’s how we grow as a family.
Special Assistant to YB Chong Chieng Jen