Mr Matlisah Bin Chela is 74 years old and had been a wanderer without a fixed roof over his head for most of his life. Born in Pulau Bukom, his father passed away when he was barely a year old. His mother, who was from Indonesia, left him in the care of his grandmother. He dropped out of school when in primary 6, and helped supplement the family’s income by fishing in an old sampan.
However, his safe haven was redeveloped, and he had to move to the main island when he was about 20 years old. From then on, he stayed under the roof of relatives and friends, moving from place to place. With little education, he could only work for a vegetable wholesaler in Beach Road, cleaning vegetable debris during the day, and sleeping in the lorries parked there at night, using cardboard as makeshift shelter. All he had with him was a plastic bag with a few sets of T-shirts and shorts.
When the wholesaler moved to Pasir Panjang Wholesale Centre, Mr Matlisah lost his job. He became a cleaner, sometimes staying in the storeroom at his workplace, or at the void decks along Kallang River. So, he continued spending the night at different locations, be it under a temporary roof or just under the sky, while avoiding being chased away by others.
This only stopped when he fainted one day. He was diagnosed with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) and stayed in Singapore General Hospital for three months, being in the Intensive Care Unit half the time.
After discharge, one of his friends invited him to share a one-room rental flat at French Road. He could finally stop sleeping at different places every night but was soon plagued with physical ailments like shortness of breath and knee pain. In February 2020, he was admitted as a patient of Assisi Hospice Day Care Centre. Our medical social worker secured an air cushion to his wheelchair to make him more comfortable. We also provided supermarket vouchers to ease his financial burden, and a basic handphone suitable for seniors’ usage to facilitate his contact with the hospice and other social service organisations which are supporting him.
Coming to the Day Care Centre from Monday to Friday is a great source of joy for Mr Matlisah. He said, “I like to come here because I have friends. Even during the weekends, I look forward to Mondays,” said Mr Matlisah.
He loves the art therapy activities particularly, reminiscing his past through drawing and painting. The physiotherapy programme specially customised for him helps to maintain his mobility as much as possible.
Mr Matlisah has found happiness, care and friendship at Assisi. Help us to provide care and comfort to patients like Mr Matlisah at HERE.