Signs of desperate times as elderly queue for food aid

It is common to see people lining up for food supplies from NGOs in Pudu, Kuala Lumpur.

A FAMILY of five from Cheras, Kuala Lumpur, travels every morning at 10am to Pudu.

They park their old beaten-up car, walk to a coffeeshop near Kompleks Ruby, pick a spot and sit and wait.

By late afternoon, they would have at least four to five bags of food and groceries between them, and meet at the car before heading home with their bounty.

This is happening everywhere in Kuala Lumpur and not just in Pudu.

The same scenario can be seen in Chow Kit, Jalan Tuanku Abdul Rahman, Kota Raya, Medan Pasar and any place where non-governmental organisations (NGO) or individuals hold food distribution programmes or give food baskets to the needy.

Some take a bus, others come in taxis just to collect the items and return home in the evening.

No one goes home empty-handed though.

If the family is big, then members take turns to collect food.

Videos and photos of people queuing up to get the goodies are emerging online and one particular video of people — mostly seniors waiting at five-foot ways and sitting at coffeeshop entrances, in and beside drains in Pudu — went viral recently.

Many were shocked thinking that the seniors were homeless with nowhere to go.

“They are not homeless but they are not rich either,” said Eric Teh Hoong Keat.

“These are jobless people seeking some help to reduce their financial burden,” he added.

Teh, who is Bukit Bintang MP Fong Kui Lun’s secretary, has been liaising with people in the area for the distribution of food baskets.

Teh urges NGOs and individuals to call the MP’s office for better coordination of food baskets and supplies.Teh urges NGOs and individuals to call the MP’s office for better coordination of food baskets and supplies.

“Yes, some may come in a car to collect the food but that does not mean they are not deserving.

“Their circumstances have changed so drastically that now they are forced to queue up for food and it is understandable,” he said, adding that many still had commitments like children to feed, bank loans to service and rent to pay.

Elaborating on the viral video, Teh said most of them in the video were not homeless.

“Maybe five or 10 people are homeless, but certainly not everyone. It is pretty much the situation everywhere in the city right now,” he said.

According to Teh, after the video went viral, Fong’s office sought the help of welfare officers from Welfare Department (JKM) to look into the situation.

JKM’s feedback after talking to these people is that most are not homeless.

Those who are homeless have refused the offer to be placed at a government-run welfare home.

“They were there for the handouts.

“Clearly there has to be better coordination with the NGOs and individuals distributing food baskets,” he said, adding that there were many who took the opportunity to get as much as they could, in a day, from the various food aid drives.

“No doubt there is hoarding and some people tend to take more than they need.

“There should be a better way to channel aid to other families in need of help.”

Commenting on the video, Teh said, “People generally react to videos and jump to conclusions.

“So there has been an outpouring of offers to help from so many kind people who want to donate to these folk.

“We hope these NGOs will liaise with our office so that we can channel the contributions better,” he said.

Teh said he had seen up to eight NGOs and groups distributing food at the same spot and same time in the Pudu area.

This, he said was a waste of resources and food.

Those eager to help the poor can call the MP’s representative Terence Lee at 012-337-5968.

StarMetro, during a visit to Pudu, observed that there were many seniors queuing up for food baskets.

One senior individual, who refused to be identified, said he was getting aid for himself and his sister who has a big family.

“We may have a home and a car, but we both lost our jobs and we need money to pay the bills and rent,” he said.

Another senior, who declined to be name, said he depleted his EPF savings a few years ago after falling for a scam. He now relies on charity for food and grocery supplies.

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