Family of five in Penang appeals for public housing after living in car for eight months

Opalyn Mok
·4-min read
S. Ganesh, his wife Parameswari, and three young children have had to live out of his car after their house on Carnarvon Street caught fire in April. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
S. Ganesh, his wife Parameswari, and three young children have had to live out of his car after their house on Carnarvon Street caught fire in April. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

GEORGE TOWN, Dec 24 — A family of five, whose home was razed in a fire, is appealing for a public housing unit after living in their car since April.

Security guard S. Ganesh, his wife, Parameswari, and three young children have been living in an old car as they could not afford to rent a place of their own with his low income.

“I tried looking for a place to rent but the rental for even a small flat unit is high, about RM800. I can’t afford it. My salary is only RM1,200,” he said.

The 34-year-old said their previous house, on Carnarvon Street, burned down on April 6.

After the fire, the family was given shelter at a school hall but it was only a temporary solution.

“After the fire, we received some hampers and contributions, people came to give us food, took some photos, but that was it. After that, we were forgotten,” he said.

Ganesh said he had submitted an application to the state Housing Department for a Program Perumahan Rakyat (PPR) unit in April.

“I did not hear anything from them after that so we had to live in our car and use public toilets to bathe and wash our laundry,” he said.

He said the car, given to him by his mother, frequently breaks down so sometimes he spends a major portion of his salary on repairs.

The family has a portable gas stove which they sometimes use to cook instant noodles. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
The family has a portable gas stove which they sometimes use to cook instant noodles. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

“Sometimes, we won’t have enough money so we go for a day or two without food and only feed our children dry biscuits dipped in diluted coffee,” he said.

On days when they have enough money, he said they eat plain rice with an egg.

“The most luxurious meal for us is to add one piece of chicken,” he said.

The family has a portable gas stove so they rely on it to boil water for drinking.

Sometimes, they use it to cook instant noodles.

The couple and their three daughters, aged six years old, three years old and eight months old, have been living a nomadic life.

Ganesh said they move about instead of staying parked at one spot.

“When I am on a night shift, I park the car near my workplace so that I can still watch over them,” he said.

During the day, they park near public toilets such as the one next to Padang Polo, at Esplanade and on Gurney Drive.

He said his wife had to spend her confinement period, after delivering their youngest child, and care for the new baby and their two other children in the car.

During the day, Ganesh would park his car near public toilets such as the one next to Padang Polo, at Esplanade and on Gurney Drive. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
During the day, Ganesh would park his car near public toilets such as the one next to Padang Polo, at Esplanade and on Gurney Drive. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

Ganesh said they are not asking for much — they only want a PPR unit to live in.

“It is not safe for my wife and small children to be left in the car when I go to work so all we need is a place to stay that I can afford,” he said.

Ganesh approached Penang Hindu Association (PHA) for help and the organisation arranged with Annalakshmi Restaurant at the Temple of Fine Arts to provide the family with lunch for two weeks.

PHA president P. Murugiah said he enquired about Ganesh’s PPR application on his behalf.

“I called them and they told me that his documentation was not complete so his application was not processed but they did not inform him,” he said.

He said PHA helped Ganesh to submit the necessary documents about two days ago.

“We are appealing to the state government to consider his application and expedite it,” he said.

S. Ganesh (second from right) is is appealing for a public housing unit, having had to live out of his car after his house on Carnarvon Street caught fire in April. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin
S. Ganesh (second from right) is is appealing for a public housing unit, having had to live out of his car after his house on Carnarvon Street caught fire in April. — Picture by Sayuti Zainudin

He also appealed to well-wishers to donate clothing, food items and basic furniture to the family.

“They lost everything in the fire. They only have the clothes they are wearing. I am sure the state will help them by offering them a PPR unit but they do not have any basic furniture,” he said.

Later, during an unrelated press conference, Housing, Local Government and Town and Country Planning Committee chairman Jagdeep Singh Deo said his office is always open to help genuine cases like Ganesh.

“They can come to my office to apply for PPR housing. We are always open,” he said.

He added that in many such cases, the individuals had probably applied for PPR housing and their applications were being processed.

Those who wish to assist Ganesh and his family can call 011-36779438 or PHA treasurer Nookaraju at 012-4072846.

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