Feeding a need but fostering dependency

DBKL urges individuals and organisations not to give food directly to the homeless, so that the distribution can be better coordinated. — Filepic

GIVING food to the homeless seems noble but some social activists say it is a short-term measure that can prove harmful in the long run.

“It fosters an unhealthy dependency on aid and it disincentivises the homeless from seeking to improve their condition,” said the activists.

Rashdan Rashid said Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) should be empowered to fine those who distribute food to the homeless without its approval.

“This is to ensure there is no overlap between government agencies and non-governmental organisations when giving out aid,” he reasoned.

DBKL, in a statement on Sept 13, told the public not to give food directly to the homeless.

“This could create safety, hygiene and wastage issues,” DBKL said, adding that it had designated two food distribution centres in Medan Tuanku and Chow Kit.

Rashdan, who has been working with the homeless since 2014, said simply giving food only treated the symptoms but not the cause.

“Every homeless person has a sad story to recount.

“They need counselling to help them make sense of what happened.

“Some have a criminal record, and as a result have been disowned by their family.

“Others are dealing with mental health issues which need to be addressed,” he said.

The chairperson of Kuala Lumpur and Selangor Association for the Homeless and Needy, said the homeless should be equipped with skills to become independent.

He cited the Federal Territories Ministry’s initiative to recruit the homeless to work at farms under Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) as a good example.

Tzu Chi Foundation Malaysia recycling coordinator Francis Tan said cooperation between government agencies and NGOs was crucial to address the homelessness issue.

“Work together to brainstorm ideas on how to help the homeless get back on their feet,” he said, adding that the government must ensure its plans could be executed sustainably.

Tan disagreed with DBKL’s move to designate specific spots to distribute food to the homeless.

“DBKL should send them to the Anjung Kelana centre in Taman Desa where they will be provided food.

“There, the homeless can also receive training instead of roaming and sleeping on the streets,” he said.

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