GEORGE TOWN: Most people go about their daily lives here not knowing about the existence of a small group of elderly folks crying for help.
Living from hand to mouth, they are often only a few metres away from the heart of the city.
One of them is retired fisherman Chin Kam Hoong, 74, who stays in a pre-war house in Rope Walk about 300m away from the bustling Komtar.
Measuring 2.5m by 3m, his room is cluttered with belongings – baskets of clothing, old newspapers, assorted bottles and jars, a bicycle pump, an electric fan and kettle.
All his possessions, meagre though these are, leave him only a small clearing on the floor to lay down.
Chin, who has never married since he spent most of his life at sea, gets a RM300 allowance from the state Welfare Department, RM200 of which goes to his rental alone.
“I used up all my savings more than 10 years ago,” said Chin, who is hard of hearing. “I cook everything with my kettle, usually instant noodles or oats.”
While Chin has at least a room, Tan Ee Chin, 76, who lives a block way, forks out RM130 a month to rent half the space of a front hall in a pre-war house in Kuala Kangsar Road, almost directly in front of Komtar Walk.
Her 4m by 3m space is crammed with a small bed, a chair, a table and boxes of knick-knacks as well as a television set, which no longer appears to work.
“I have two daughters and a son. My girls got married and I don’t know where they are now. My son is an odd-jobber and lives somewhere in the city. Sometimes, he comes to see me and buys me some bread.”
Tan does not live alone though, having taken in her 60-year-old friend and her six-year-old grandson after they were evicted from another pre-war house a few months ago.
“My friend’s son died of cancer and his wife ran away, leaving my friend to care for her grandson. When they were evicted, I couldn’t do nothing,” said Tan, whose worries seemed to be fixated on the young boy than herself.
“I am old and I accept my fate. But he is so young and I pity him for sharing our karma. I hope the authorities will help him.”
Both Chin and Tan are among the almost 200 old folks, whose details are recorded in Food Bank 4U, a social welfare body helping destitute senior citizens and single mothers.
It gives away free meals every Friday evening from a house near Hong Leong Bank in Burmah Road.
“We record their addresses when they come for free meals. Every Tuesday, our members visit and look into their personal needs,” said the charity’s pro-temp committee member Wendy Ang.
Those who are interested in contributing to Food Bank 4U can contact Ang at 012-478 5124 or Cecilia Yeap at 012-418 8346.