KUCHING, Feb 14: Sarawak needs an integrated psychiatric nursing home to serve as a short-term or long-term safe haven for the homeless, especially those with mental health issues.
Assistant Minister of Women, Family and Childhood Development Rosey Yunus emphasised that access to such an institution for those who have been taken off the streets was among the challenges facing the government to resolve the issue of homelessness properly.
“Institutions like Anjung Singgah and Desa Bina Diri must be expanded to other areas other than Kuching,” she told participants at a Workshop on Coordinating Homeless Issue SOP and Designing Social Issues Snapshots at Waterfront Hotel here today.
She added that the laws relating to this problem must also be relevant and not antagonistic to each other.
“For instance, a person with a history of mental health problems is not eligible to enter rehab centres like Desa Bina Diri under Akta Orang Papa, while on the other hand, the said person cannot be detained at the Sentosa Hospital when he is already (considered) stable under the Mental Health Act,” she explained.
In Malaysia, she said homelessness was not limited to ‘golongan papa’ according to the definition in the Akta Orang-Orang Papa (1977) (Akta 183), which serves to protect, rehabilitate and manage individuals begging for alms in public places.
Homelessness, she continued, became a social issue because the living conditions of this group exposes them to all kinds of issues that could have an impact not only on themselves but also the community indirectly.
“Recognising the risks of negative social problems related to homelessness, the ministry has identified this as part of the 10 social issues that required an integrated and holistic approach to tackle this problem,” she added.
Noting the complexity in tackling this issue, this workshop was organised to create a coordination mechanism for definition, rules and regulations, standard operating procedure (SOP) and existing work processes involving various departments and government agencies, stakeholders and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
All stakeholders have also come together to design the Social Issues Snapshots to gather and analyse statistics; provide brief and meaningful social parameters and indicators; and messages for the community to internalise the issues as evidence-based inputs for social development planning, monitoring and interventions.
“The recommendations from this workshop will form the guideline to create an Integrated Action Plan on tackling homeless issue in Sarawak through cooperation and collaboration among us,” she said.
“Evidence-based input is also crucial to addressing social issues. Hence, the analysis of reliable and valid data to spot trends, parameters, indicators and correlations into brief and meaningful snapshots is critical to ensure that effective social policies and interventions are formulated, designed and evaluated.”
These Snapshots, she pointed out, would be valuable content for the Social Development Council (SDC), social media as well as sharing with the community and stakeholders at signature outreach programme this year named ‘Randau Pembangunan Sosial’ or ‘Randau Pemansang Raban Bansa’ in Iban.
“I hope the compilation of snapshots on these social issues will be able to influence the development of effective social policies, design of impactful social programmes and appropriate intervention in public and private agencies and civil societies, and the well-being of grassroots communities in Sarawak,” she said.
SDC executive secretary Dr Zufar Yadi Brenda Abdullah, Narcotics Crime Investigation Department head Supt Sahar Abdul Latif, Sentosa Hospital director Dr Rosliwati Md Yusoff, Sarawak National Registration Department deputy director Hajiawati Tambi, and Sarawak Mental Health Association chairman Dr Ismail Drahman were among those present. — DayakDaily