A house, without hope, is not a home

Thor Kah Hoong

Villa Harapan in Duyong, Malacca offers shelter to those who have been challenged by the vicissitudes of life. – Pic courtesy of The Malaysian Insight reader, August 5, 2017.

IN Duyong in the rural outskirts of Malacca, hidden away deep inside an oil palm estate is Villa Harapan, a “home” for 130 homeless men and women, ranging in age from 20 to 60.

Many are losing their mental moorings, in tandem with their familial ties. Some have orthopaedic problems; others medical problems; a few have a drug problem.

There is even a young man who has a family, but they have left him there because they couldn’t cope with the violent fits of a mind twisted by syabu.

Villa Harapan is one of Malacca’s answers to the problem of the homeless cluttering up the camera-view of tourists. There is word that the capital city of Kuala Lumpur will be modelling its programme for the homeless on that of Villa Harapan.

The home is run by Pertubuhan Kebajikan Villa Harapan Melaka (VH), and it has been in operation since March 2010. The building belongs to Majlis Bandaraya Melaka Bersejarah (MBMB), who also takes care of the electricity bill.

The home gets an annual allocation of RM200,000 for food for the residents.

Therein lies the crunch. VH vice-chairman M.Thomas says this year’s  allocation, usually surfacing in April, is still not in hand.

How have 130 residents been fed these last four months?

Thomas says he had been making the temple rounds asking for donations. Some of the residents’ families contribute RM200-RM300 a month.

Chinese media also highlighted the home’s plight, after which there have been more donations, including of new mattresses.

But it’s a hard grind every day, he says, because many think the home’s expenses are completely covered by the city council.

The home’s appeal letter lists monthly expenses of RM19,056,  which excludes food but includes the salaries of its 10 workers.

Why the delay? Lack of funds? Thomas shrugs.

Has he pressed the city council? Yes. Did they say why? He shrugs again.

He suggests things went easy when the founder and patron of the home was an assemblyman from the ruling coalition, but now that the constituency has voted in the opposition, it is difficult to get the ears of the city council.

MBMB’s brusque abdication of responsibility was conveyed by Mohd Yajid Hamzah of the welfare department.

It’s not our fault. It’s their fault. They must submit their application by January. They submitted it in March. They have to wait for the next quarter. It’s their fault. They submitted in March.

When pressed when the cheque might be issued, now being way into the third quarter of the year, the reply was August. 

The Malaysian Insight learnt this morning that the allocation was approved yesterday.

Villa Harapan is divided into two wings for the two genders. 

With the women largely planted in the vast, empty space of the common area watching TV, the wing was not exactly bedlam.

Across the lobby, the locked gate to the men’s wing sports a few strands of barbed wire on top, but the wire enclosure seems easily scalable. Nobody was manic here either, though there was a tall, thin man pacing the same square of the floor.

The large bedroom had several bedridden men who were asleep. Their diapers accounted for the strong stench of urine.

Each wing has two bare cells for “residents” who “cannot behave”.  The four cells were filled with men and women silently huddled on the floor.

If someone has a bad trip or an attack of paranoia, that’s the punishment? 

For how long? Till they behave. Are they treated? They are given drugs to calm them down. As for treatment, the home sends those with medical and psychiatric issues to Hospital Besar Melaka for treatment; those in need of the latter are on a schedule set by the hospital.

Has a resident ever recovered from their afflictions, mental or medical, and returned to the world out there?

About eight have left, some going back to family, some claiming recovery and newfound ability to cope with life outside.
“If they say they are fine and want to go, we can’t keep them. This is not a prison,” says home manager Rosaline Dass.

About the scheduled visits to the hospital, Dr Khairuddin Wahab, head of the psychiatric department of Hospital Besar Melaka, said: “There is no schedule. There is no special preference for patients from the home. They are treated like everyone else. When they show up at the hospital, doctors will treat them.”

Leaving aside food, the monthly budget of RM19,056, adds up to over RM228,000 in a year. That’s a lot of donations. How are they managing?

And this the project that has impressed Kuala Lumpur?

Fingers can be pointed at management and at bureaucracy. These are  issues of outrage.

The heart of the matter, or the lack of one for that matter, is that there are many Malaysians who have tripped on the cracks of life, whose lives are bereft of hope, and whom only death wll claim for its own.

Who is caring for them? Who cares? – August 5, 2017.

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  • Sounds more like Tanjong Rambutan than home for the homeless to me.

    Posted 6 years ago by Malaysian First · Reply