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Kuala Lumpur versus the homeless?

Kuala Lumpur versus the homeless?
"These are human beings, not to be treated like abandoned cats and dogs". Photo: Astro AWANI/Shahir Omar
Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) has been accused of displacing homeless people by driving and dropping them off at random locations. 

The allegation comes from Lalita Abdullah of SEED, through a Facebook post detailing events which happened on May 22.
"After having the opportunity to watch a fundraising concert by SEED, our homeless community were picked up in a massive raid in KL. They were herded onto a lofty and driven out of the city. They were told to get off at Rawang and some at Karak highway," she said in the post.


Lalita said that some have walked or were dropped off again at Seed.
While Lalita has voiced outrage, I am confused by a few things in city hall's (alleged) actions.

[PHOTO GALLERY] Homeless in KL

Firstly, why drop them off at Rawang and the Karak Highway? Why not drop them off at homeless shelters around the city?

KL Mayor Datuk Mohd Amin Nordin Abdul Aziz himself launched such a place in Medan Tuanku and urged more non-government organisations to use it. In fact, another homeless transit centre was opened in February along Jalan Pahang at the cost of RM3 million.

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And secondly, who authorised such an action when it takes place?

Astro AWANI/Shahir Omar

Obviously if an official truck is used to transport the homeless, some paper trail in the form of petrol allowances and claims must be seen, signed and approved by someone. Thus, it is safe to say that government and tax ringgit are being used in an exercise in futility.

This seems to be the newest action in Kuala Lumpur's war against the homeless, after the past debacle in 2014 which saw Federal Territory Minister Tengku Adnan Mansor trying to close down soup kitchens in the city centre where the homeless get free food.

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And yet, Adnan and DBKL in their infinite wisdom seem to have no qualms with lawbreakers, considering their insistence to host illegal motorcyclists racing on the streets, nor are they concerned enough to come up with a proactive flood mitigation plan for the city.

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While it obviously shows where someone's priorities lie, there is a need to come up with proper management of this issue and a permanent solution.

Transit centres are a good start in order to allow the homeless to clean themselves up, but what is the sustainable endgame here?

Should we be looking at permanent shelters, as well as job opportunities in the so-called Dirty, Dangerous and Difficult or Demeaning (3D) sector?

Could that be doubled with a scheme of government subsidised low cost housing or even hostels, thus giving them a permanent home?

Astro AWANI/Shahir Omar

A study in compassion is necessary in looking at the homeless, but at the same time it is also a good opportunity to consider it as a sustainable solution to other issues, namely our dependence on foreign labour for one.

If a policy were in place in encouraging a so-called "Malaysian First" employment model rather than dependence on foreign labour, it would truly provide the ability to sustainably lower the homeless population as well as growing unemployment.

But let us start small.

Allow NGOs such as SEED and others to have a sit down with the Mayor as well as other interested stakeholders to look at what plans can be put in place to alleviate the homeless from their current predicaments.

At the same time, put an end to these actions of driving them off to the middle of nowhere with the hope that they don't return.

These are human beings, not to be treated like abandoned cats and dogs at some pasar or commercial area.

A homeless child with his father waiting for food at Jalan Panggung in Kuala Lumpur.

* Hafidz Baharom is a social observer and a regular contributor. Views expressed are personally his and do not necessarily reflect those of Astro AWANI.

** Astro AWANI is following up with DBKL and Lalita Abdullah on this matter.