Kechara Soup Kitchen: A beacon of hope for those in need

KUALA LUMPUR: As a disheveled man enters the premises of Kechara Soup Kitchen, Justin Cheah quickly grabs a pack of the packed lunch and hands it to the man.

Cheah, 41, who now works with Kechara on a full-time basis, said the man is mentally unsound and comes regularly for his meals there.

"If I let him stay in line, he will disrupt the whole place. He is mentally unsound, so best we help as soon as he enters," he told theSun.

The biggest challenge, Cheah says, is when dealing with those with mental health issues.

"The hospitals have limited space to keep them there for treatment. Often families cannot handle a mentally unstable person and they will give up, so where do they go? They have nowhere to go other than the streets."

Cheah says the non-religious community action group relies on volunteers almost up to 90% for its daily operations, which often goes more than just feeding the homeless and urban poor.

Kechara prepares about 200 packs of food to feed the homeless who start lining about 11am for their meals.

"We open our doors at about 10.30am daily, homeless and the urban poor come in for lunch as well as to do their laundry. We also can provide medical assistance," he added.

Although Kechara does not have a full-time doctor, the staff can take blood pressure readings and if needed take the person for medical attention.

"If we see something that does not appear quite right and the person seems to be in need of medical attention, we take them to the nearby clinic or HKL (Hospital Kuala Lumpur," Cheah said.

When asked about the cost incurred for medical needs, he said Kechara often pays when necessary.

"Sometimes no choice, what can we do. People come in with pneumonia, high blood pressure, skin problem, tuberculosis or even mentally health issues. When we take them to the hospital, we will find out that there is some outstanding bill which we need to settle."

Cheah recounted an incident where a homeless woman was spotted oozing pus with horrible stench from her body.

"Her breast appeared to have ruptured. She was having fourth stage breast cancer. She also had no recollection of any memories including her name. With the basic details she provided us and her thumbprint, we worked with NRD (National Registration Department) and we managed to trace her brother," he said.

Cheah said the woman, who was in her 40s came from a broken family, is now cared for by her brother.