Community Connect Part 4 – The Graduation: Celebrating Transformation

Members of the Community Connect project, formerly sleeping rough in Downtown Kuala Lumpur, celebrating their exit from homelessness with project implementers from NGO, Yellow House, and Think City's Uta Dietrich (third from left). Image: Think City

Three months into the Community Connect project, six street friends have already found their way towards a better life. Uta Dietrich, Senior Manager-Urban Solutions at Think City shares the three reasons why Community Connect has met with success.

It has been three months since Community Connect began and six street friends have benefitted from the programme. What changes can we expect in this short time? Well, I can only say the results have been very encouraging. Of the four men and two women, only one person has left and not returned to the area. Three have found work and do not sleep on the streets any longer. Two others are well on the way, with one looking for work, the other still getting an identity card.

However, the outcomes were not limited to work and housing: reconnecting with family, taking action to improve health and more were all part of what was accomplished.

To celebrate this achievement, we had a graduation ceremony near Bangkok Bank, where Community Connect has been operating. The group cleaned the area and decorated it with balloons. In their new clothes, shoes and bright yellow Community Connect T-Shirts, they proudly received a certificate and shared stories of how the programme has changed them.

While we do not have a final report yet, I would like to reflect on the possible factors of why the project had such positive outcomes.

The Concept

In conceiving this project, the idea was to look at each person as an individual with their own set of needs and aspirations, connected to the place in which they regularly sleep. Each of the six individuals had their own set of strengths and needs.

For example, the programme utilised the strong leadership skills of one beneficiary, asking him to lead the cleaning and engagement activities with other street friends. This assisted in building his confidence, purpose and self-worth. Identifying underlying medical issues and getting them addressed with another beneficiary helped this person to regularly attend work.

Always operating in the same space and connecting with businesses led to store-owners watching beneficiaries work, and one manager was so impressed with the dedication and hard work, that she offered a position to one of the street friends. Another business even offered full time work to another individual in the first week of the programme itself. This success confirms that an initial transition period of addressing issues, practising routines and building self-confidence is first required.

Beyond finding employment and a roof over their heads, beneficiaries developed friendships with project workers and local businesses, boosting their self-esteem and confidence in their return to society. Image: Think City

Experience and Passion

Yellow House, the NGO operating the programme for Think City brought years of experience not just in working with people experiencing homelessness but with intensive personalised approaches focusing on building self-worth and self-efficacy.

Another quality they brought to the programme was flexibility. They adjusted and adapted each day’s plan according to what was required, solved problems and responded to what was in the best interest of the beneficiaries and the business owner.

Community Connect was a new programme for them, but their experience and passion helped immensely.

The Place

Think City has operated in this particular area of Downtown Kuala Lumpur for a couple of years with a variety of programmes, such as the upgrade of the Lorong Bandar 13 laneway, adjacent to Bangkok Bank, which included multiple engagements with businesses in the area. This prior connection and relationship with Think City has greatly contributed to the support received. One business, Geographer Café, for example, provided access to most of the water used for the cleaning of the area.

These three points are current reflections of this three-month experiment. As we move forward, we will need to test these assumptions by replicating the programme in other places along with other NGOs to assess whether its outcomes can be replicated before considering options for further upscaling of the Community Connect initiative. Citi Foundation’s funding of this programme has certainly changed the lives of this cohort of beneficiaries.

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