FOR warm meals and a place to stay until one gets back on their feet, the transit centre in George Town, Penang might just be what the homeless community needs.
Khairul Taib, 39, said he decided to register and stay at the centre for the homeless in Jalan CY Choy as he had been down on his luck lately.
“I lost my job as a security guard in April this year and have been scouting for work ever since.
“The main requirement for me when it comes to work is accommodation as rental is too high,” he said, adding that his previous employer had offered hostel accommodation.
Khairul, who worked in the oil and gas sector previously, said his family was in Kuala Lumpur.
“It is great that they have a place like this for us to stay for a while until we get back on our feet.
“I will now focus on looking for work,” he said.
Khairul is one of 14 from the first batch of people who had registered to stay at the centre for 14 days.
Lee Chong Kim, 70, who lives in Queen Street, walks over to the centre for meals whenever he can.
“I currently do not have a job and as age is catching up, I do not do much.
“I live off my welfare money but it is not enough as I need to pay RM200 for rent,” he said, adding that the remainder was kept for important expenses.
“Free food given at the centre ensures I get a proper nutritious meal,” he said.
He added that he used to go to a temple nearby for food.
“As there are others who come over, we eat together and this way, I do not feel lonely,” said the divorcee.
Lee, who used to work in a factory in Singapore, said times had been hard and he was looking for work.
“Many offered me work as a security guard but I am too old to work on shifts.
“I do not mind working for extra money but I cannot do hard labour,” he said.
The new RM4.4mil homeless transit centre, fully funded by the state government and built by Penang Island City Council, opened its doors on Sept 1.
Located near Komtar vicinity, along Magazine Road, the centre doubles as a designated distribution and intervention centre to retrain and equip the homeless with skills to survive on their own.
The idea for a transit centre was mooted to get homeless people off the streets and empower them to finally get jobs and rent places of their own at government public housing projects.
The centre has 88 beds that are sectioned into male and female dorms with private lockers and cubicle bathrooms.
The ground floor offers a dining facility as well as male and female dorms for the disabled.
It currently has 47 people registered for daily meals including those who lived nearby and the homeless.
Social development, welfare and non-Islamic religious affairs committee chairman Lim Siew Khim said helping the homeless was not just about aiding those on the streets, but also focusing on preventive measures.
“By providing free food, for instance, we can help at-risk individuals maintain their health and energy levels, reducing the likelihood of them becoming homeless.
“Meals are usually provided by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and corporate sponsors.
“For now, we have a list of organisations that have committed to giving lunch and dinner.
“We have developed a backup plan for days when sponsorship is not available,” she said.
Lim said the centre was in the midst of working on a collaboration with the state Health Department and more NGOs to offer regular health screenings for the homeless.
“We encourage the private sector and NGOs to come forward.
“If all of these organisations contribute, significant change is possible.
“It is important to note that giving food directly to homeless individuals on the street often exacerbates the issue and leads to food waste.
“We welcome all donations to the transit centre where they can be wisely managed,” she said.