WHILE I was walking along Lorong Hang Jebat, Melaka, one afternoon, an elderly man came up to me asking for RM5.
It was heartbreaking to hear that the 65-year-old needed the money to buy lunch.
He wanted a listening ear and shared that he is a bachelor and had exhausted his Employees’ Provident Fund savings three years after retiring.
Now, he works as a carpark attendant and sometimes runs out of cash, forcing him to ask strangers for help.
This happened in February and more recently, I saw another man in his late 50s spending the night outside my office at Jalan Hang Tuah.
He had a similar tale of woe as the other man – a bachelor suffering from acute diabetes and with no money left, who sleeps on the streets while depending on donations from passers-by for food.
The sight of beggars in the historical city even caught the attention of Melaka Transport, Works and Public Amenities Committee chairman Datuk Mohd Sofi Wahab.
He said there was a growing number of beggars on the streets of Melaka, affecting the state’s image and tourism industry.
“Some even knock on motorists’ window at traffic junctions asking for money.
“We have to stop them before the state’s image as a tourism destination is marred,” he was quoted as saying.
Mohd Sofi is right. Beggars are visible at many major traffic intersections in Melaka, as are children going around peddling items in the name of charitable and religious bodies.
My concern is the lack of government help for homeless elders from the state.
Where are the people who came to my office and brought me along to take pictures of them helping the homeless before the last general election?
Nevertheless, I have to take my hat off to two who continue to bring food to the homeless – Kota Melaka MP Khoo Poay Tiong and Melaka Health and Anti-Drug Committee chairman Low Chee Leong.
To make matters worse, it was announced that Melakans above 60 living below the poverty line are no longer eligible for the monthly welfare aid which they used to enjoy, if they are still fit and could work.
I suggest that the state government do the following to help the poor in the state:
l Go down to the ground and publicise the food banks which are available to the poor.
l Increase donations to Gurdwara Sahib Melaka to continue their free meal programmes to reach more people
l Rent a comfortable home close to the city and allow the homeless to sleep there at night.
l Give welfare aid to those working as kitchen helpers and parking attendants regardless of their health status.
l Form a charitable body with donations from corporations and those vying for projects from the state government and channel the money to needy elders in the state.
l Limit funding for the free bus service which is more frequently utilised by foreigners, and use the money to look into the welfare of the homeless.
More importantly, those currently holding office should continue to be as friendly and caring as they were before GE14.