THE Homeless Empowerment Programme by the Federal Territories Ministry will continue after the first batch completes its stint on Sept 30.
The ministry’s secretary-general Datuk Seri Adnan Md Ikhsan said they would continue with the Saving the Homeless Joint Operations and Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) operations in the city centre.
He said the ministry has prepared the Geo Kosmo National Service Training Camp in Kuala Kubu Baru for this programme and another camp in Mantin, Seremban, is on standby if needed.
“Each location can take in 400 homeless at a time,” he said in an exclusive interview with StarMetro at the Kuala Kubu Baru camp.
He said the locations were chosen as they were not too far from Kuala Lumpur and were sizeable.
“Being away from the city centre also ensures they are away from friends who influence them to participate in vices,” he said.
The programme is for the homeless in the city centre, who will undergo several modules specially designed to develop their soft skills and build character.
“This includes self-esteem development, counselling, personal care, skills training, as well as self-empowerment modules which cover the aspect of patriotism and career,” Adnan said, adding that the programme’s main objective was to help the homeless get off the streets and lead a normal life.
“It may sound a little ambitious on our part but we sincerely believe that with equal chances and enough opportunities, this group of people can also contribute greatly to the nation,” he said.
Adnan added that the ministry felt it was its responsibility to help the homeless in Kuala Lumpur.
He said according to statistics by DBKL, there were more than 1,000 homeless in the city.
Adnan said he was pleased with the results of the programme so far.
“Our intention is to help them and we are not trying to drive them out of the city centre.
“They are not detainees. They filled up a consent form upon registration.
“They are free to leave the camp if they feel it is not accommodating enough to their needs and lifestyle,” he said when responding to claims that the ministry was trying to drive out the homeless.
However, he said there were terms and conditions for them to leave.
“Close relatives have to pick them up from here or if they are working, their employers can also pick them up or show proof of their employment,” he said.
The fate of the participants
So, what happens to the participants once they have finished the programme?
Federal Territories Ministry Policy Planning deputy undersecretary Wan Ashbi Leman said the ministry planned to profile them, by asking about their interests and skills, before the programme ended.
“We will try to match them with companies where they can work.
“In fact, we already had a business looking for chefs and three from the programme were chosen.
“A hypermarket even came here to interview them to fill up positions such as store managers and security guards,” he said.
In response to request for MyKad replacement and driving licence, Wan Ashbi said the ministry would discuss the matter with the National Registration Department and related government agencies.
For those struggling with addiction issues, he said the ministry would look into more intervention and counselling for them.
Wan Ashbi stressed that this programme was not a one-off initiative and the ministry has been serious about helping the homeless since 2014.
They have even addressed the issue of putting a roof over their heads.
Wan Ashbi said DBKL had prepared 10 public housing units for those in need of a place to stay until they can afford a place of their own.
“Each unit can accommodate four occupants, who can stay for a monthly rental of RM30 each.
“DBKL will look into increasing the number of units for them,” he said.
He added that the staff at the camps were not specifically trained for this programme but were picked based on the needs to make the programme a success.
“For example, we brought in DBKL enforcement officers to instil discipline among the participants,” he said.
The programme seems to have a positive effect on the participants but a longer time period is needed to assess its effectiveness.
However, the future of these participants also largely depends on whether they have the willpower to continue working towards a better life and not go back to their dark past.