A street friend’s personal journey towards ending homelessness can be a long and daunting one, but the right people and chances can help make a difference in keeping them off the streets. In the second installment of the Community Connect blog, we learn about how lives can change with the right kind of opportunity.
Many are unaware that our ministries, namely the Welfare Department and City Hall have readiness programmes for our street people. It was during one of these round-up routines by DBKL that Raj* was taken to Kem Geo Kosmo in Kuala Kubu Baru for two months. At the camp, street friends, referred to as residents, would undergo a readiness program to almost reset their discipline and motivation to enter the workforce again.
It was here that we met Raj while the Yellow House team was carrying out mediation activities and recruiting tour associates for Unseen Tours Kuala Lumpur. Following the many weekends we spent at the camp for our recruitment and job matching exercises, we became friends with Raj. His charismatic nature and positivity made him stand out from the crowd. He had a great sense of humour too. Raj was selected as one of our tour associates but unfortunately after a few months, he left the program for greener pastures. We bid him goodbye and we thought it would be the last we heard of him. But it wasn’t.
It was Think City’s Community Connect project that gave us an opportunity to reconnect with Raj. We bumped into him every day while we were collecting information for a database of details from street friends. By this time, a turn of events had driven Raj to sleep rough on the streets again, but he hadn’t lost his sense of humour and charisma.
Raj felt a strong link to the Community Connect project, as the project creates partnerships between rough sleeping street friends at Bangkok Bank and local businesses within the area. Local businesses would give them the opportunity to be hired to clean up the external areas of the shops, which in turn, is good for business. He became its first member and now guides other street friends in street cleaning efforts around Bangkok Bank. He also acts as Community Connect’s street consultant, connecting us with his street friends who would like to have the same opportunity and guidance as he had. Today, Raj has a roof over his head and is convinced that this time, he is truly on his way to end his homelessness.
Raj is an inspiration to all of us. His story of overcoming the odds is a courageous one and is not unfamiliar. Most street friends go through several attempts before being able to exit homelessness and many are not as ready as Raj. However, with each attempt, they learn more about what works and what throws them back. Not all journeys are as smooth as Raj’s. Self-doubt, lack of confidence, low self-esteem and a rough past are all ingredients for fear of change. But while many of our street friends take little steps to transform their lives, we hope to make their journey less daunting. Hopefully, we can all be a part of that journey.
Community Connect’s self-help approach to social inclusion is funded by Citi Foundation, managed by Think City and implemented through Yellow House.
*Names have been changed to protect the identity of our street friends
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