Homeless in Penang

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“I have been living on the streets for 15 years. Society does not want me anymore – they say that I’m too old. If I’m caught by the Welfare Department, they will put me away for three years or send me to an old folks’ home, where there is no freedom. Here, I can do anything I wish. I don’t need much. As long as I have my freedom and food, what else do I need? Moreover, at this age, I can ‘go’ any time.” – Uncle Bob (67 years old, born in Penang)

Penang is perceived as a food paradise, a world-class tourist destination and the all- round place to be. George Town is the cultural heart of the island state. But underneath her beauty and vibrancy lies the sight that many still choose to ignore: the destitute and the homeless.

In 2012, the destitute and homeless in Penang numbered at 288. This was a sharp drop from a staggering 445 in 20091. The majority of them are between 45 and 65 years old. According to Kechara Soup Kitchen (KSK) programme director Patsy Gooi and the Social Welfare Department ( JKM) many senior citizens often choose to live on the street because of familial discords or because there is no one to take care of them.


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