More than just a roof over their heads

1 Volunteers from Pertiwi Soup Kitchen serving food and drinks to the homeless at the transit centre in Jalan Pahang. 2 The transit centre in Jalan Pahang can fit up to 250 people and has bunk beds.— Photos: M. AZHAR ARIF /The Star

The Transit Centre for the Homeless in Jalan Pahang has opened for more than a month now.

Within its walls are some 129 people originally from other states in the country who came to Kuala Lumpur for various reasons, but all ended up converging at this shelter.

The three-storey building provides sleeping and bathing facilities, medical services, counselling and job matching.

Mohd Zulhikmi Jaafar, 32, has been staying there since Feb 12 – two days after it opened.

One may wonder about his predicament and how he had resorted to living in a homeless shelter.

The Selangor-native said he was born blind in his right eye and it was hard for him to get a job as he was considered “disabled.”

“To make matters worse, I was duped by a friend who had asked me to take a loan of RM67,000 for him.

“Unfortunately, he did not pay me back,” he said.

The transit centre in Jalan Pahang can fit up to 250 people and has bunk beds. — Photos: M. AZHAR ARIF / The Star

When asked why he did not stay with his family, he said he did not want his family to know his whereabouts because of “family problems.”

Just before he started staying at the transit centre, he managed to secure a part-time job at a fast-food restaurant.

“I get RM500 to RM600 a month from my job. So I still cannot afford to rent a room,” he said, adding that he had to keep aside RM100 every month to repay the loan.

“I am thankful that I have this place to stay in but I also hope the Federal Territories Ministry can help me with my housing problem, such as letting me rent a PPR unit,” said Zulhikmi.

Another temporary resident at the shelter is S. Thrumahligam, 61, who said that he lost most of his money to an addiction.

“I regret getting involved in such activities. I had too much cash as I am single and did not know what to do with the money.

“I was earning a lot in my previous job as an undertaker, where I worked for more than 30 years.”

He said he became unemployed because of his age.

“I was putting up at a friend’s place before I found out about this centre, which then offered me a job as a security guard.

“I am very happy here. I have a job and food is provided,” he said.

He said he was determined to save money now for himself.

When asked about his family, he said he had not been in contact with them in three years.

“They do not know where I am. I do not want to trouble my family,” he said.

The third of seven children, Thrumahligam said he might see his family again once his situation was more stable.

Like Zulhikmi, Thrumahligam hopes the ministry will help him find a place to stay.

“A PPR unit would be good as the rent is affordable,” he said.

At the Medan Tuanku Feeding Centre, which opened on Sept 25, several non-governmental organisations are rotating on different days to provide lunch and dinner to feed the homeless.

S. Thomas, 38, who was there to receive food and drinks, said that he was doing welding jobs for 10 years but it was hard for him to get such jobs now that many companies preferred to hire foreign labour.

Thomas said that he was now living on his savings alone and was still searching for welding work or as an air-conditioner repairman.

He admitted that he had a criminal record, making it hard for him to land a job.

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