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Answering questions on the homeless

I have seen many people questioned about the plight of the homeless. One of my reader asked nicely so I thought I will try to attempt to answer these questions and sometimes misconceptions or perceptions we have of others.

dear Lilian,

Thank you for making this documentary and bringing social issues to the forefront. I have some thoughts after watching this particular video. The man you interviewed (and perhaps many more that you did not show) seem more than capable of earning basic salary doing something, and to have a normal life. I wonder if you have a chance to ask them, in addition of having “hope” to become better, do they have plan to pull themselves together and to improve their life?

Also, does local government has welfare programs that provide basic job opportunity for these homeless people?

Please feel free to response directly to my email if you prefer it that way. (deming on my post on the Homeless Hope here)

Deming, Maybe you missed my earlier video over on this post where the homeless folks told me why they are sleeping on the streets. Some of them tried to get a job but usually local employers prefer foreign workers which we deem as slaves. It is true. Just see how often foreign maids are bashed and whacked by their crazy employers?

You are right that the man I interviewed is fully capable of working. I asked him nicely and warned him not to be angry with me when I asked him why he didn’t attempt to get even menial tasks like washing plates. He was a former coffeeshop owner and I guess there is some pride in him. Moreover, no one wants to hire a 60 yrs old local man to do it when they have plenty of foreign workers.

Often, we thought when they are down and out, they have no more dignity, pride and ‘face water’ in them anymore. They are not. They need time to adjust from being a towkay to a useless bum on the road. It is not fair when we think people can switch off their pride and just bite the dust.

The other thing I think most of them get is depression. Depression as in a mental condition. Not the controllable ’emo phase’. When we are deeply depressed, we have no desire to do anything to help ourselves. So, that probably contributes to their ‘laziness’. They probably see no further than the day. They do not care about tomorrow or have any hope of the future. So, they sort of float around, surviving only on foods handed down to them.

And to the question, if our state government is doing anything, YES, they are. Unfortunately, Penang is sort of held by ransom by the Barisan Nasional led federal government and there is a squabble on the funds. YB Phee who is the Exco in charge of welfare said he is trying hard to find accommodations for these people. Penang does not have any shelter home right now to fit these group of able-bodied but jobless and homeless guys.

I feel we can do more and that’s why I gate crashed the CM’s press conference to bring up the topic of the homeless when he declared Penang is free from hardcore poverty. You can see the video here.

All of us, including me have always not been sympathetic to these vagrants because it is easier to ‘switch off’ the issue. However, I remember the prodigal son parable in the Bible where the father (aka the role of God) accepted the son, unconditionally. I think we also have to have an open heart, open mind and without prejudice have some faith that each and every one of them have their reasons to be homeless. We may not be able to help them but at least do not jump into conclusion that they are all lazy, good for nothing, useless bums who waited for scraps and are a burden to taxpayers’ money. I think if we give them our time, some help and a second chance, each and everyone of them does have a chance to be ‘normal’ again. And if we cannot do that, at least give them some respect and the benefit of doubts that they did not choose to live on the streets but circumstances forced them to.

deming, the whole post is not to rebuke what you asked but rather to answers many of the questions I have seen at other places.




One Response to “Answering questions on the homeless”

  1. Hi Lilian

    thank you for addressing my questions as a blog post on its own…you gave me my 1 minute fame…just kidding..wasn’t seeking that…

    The way to make things better is, as you said, multi-pronged with the end result of them supporting themselves and as you would agree, it is going to take time…

    getting people to be aware of the situation is an important step, and you have, through your journalistic effort and through church support group has done just that. If nothing else, you have made me aware of the situation…and i live 9000 miles (15,000 km) from Penang.

    again, thank you for responding…