KISAH IBU : A DAY IN THE CITY
"Nothing would induce Henri to talk. If you asked him why he worked in the sewers he never answered, but simply crossed his wrists to signify handcuffs, and jerked his head southward, towards the prison. Bad luck seemed to have turned him half-witted in a single day.”
“Poor lad, not a word could he utter; but his belly answered for him, with a disgraceful rumbling which it set up at sight of the food. Thereafter he was so overcome with shame that he could scarcely swallow his bun.”
Down and Out in Paris & London, George Orwell. The rush hour fades away as people commute back to their own suburb. The traffic eases and a hush descends as the night settles in Medan Pasar at KL city centre. Gradually, a small group of people emerge from the city’s shadow to mill around the square, waiting expectantly. They appear to be a disparate bunch ; some are obvious office workers, shirt, trousers and a backpack. Others, dressed more casual, probably odd-jobbers collecting recyclables around the city. There is an old man on crutches, looking tired but hopeful. A brightly coloured bus pulls up into the square, its lights washing the expectant faces with a warm glow. Doors fold open, tables and chairs set up, the kitchen wafts aromas of a meal. Warm food, a place to wash up, a dry clean place to sleep is what they seek. More than that, people to talk to, a listening ear and a friendly piece of advice to help them along life’s journey. Most of the homeless are not beggars or vagrants but hold jobs during the day. Many are victims of circumstance, a run of bad luck, unable to cope with various addictions, or simply old and slightly grumpy, leaving them abandoned by their families or unable to afford regular housing. Their status leaves them in limbo, estranged from mainstream society with its requirement for identity, financial records and references and unable to join back in. What they require is not only a temporary shelter, but a place to regain their dignity and help to overcome the various administrative barriers towards plugging back into society. What they need to feel is society reaching out to bring them back in, rather than being on the outside trying to climb back in. Hence, the idea of a mobile shelter reaching out to the people around the city was born.
Kasih Ibu offers a temporary mobile shelter rehabilitated from a standard double-decker bus. It accommodates 12 private bedrooms and additional 12 beds available by converting the bus seats. It has a complete shower and toilet facility accessible from both inside and outside, a kitchen, a washer and a drier, area for a chat and a café selling tea and cakes donated by moms. During the day, Kasih Ibu does awareness campaigns and charity drives at KL’s malls and at public gathering areas. During dusk, Kasih Ibu offers a pick-up for the homeless in area where there is the most need; bus stops at Chow Kit, Kotaraya, Sungkai, Masjid India and Masjid Negara. Kasih Ibu will then plug into city’s infrastructure and draw on public sport facilities, public squares and mosques for shower/toilet and overnight parking facilities. Kasih Ibu offers much more that simply housing. It provides integrated support hubs, free food, advice and information on permanent housing, income, job and education. Free basic medical care, counseling and legal advice will also be provided by a team of professional volunteers. This creates an opportunity for meaning engagement through social and community integration that helps the homeless back on their feet again.