TRADERS in Bukit Bintang have lauded the decision to move soup kitchens away from the city centre as they are not in keeping with the area’s image.
Bukit Bintang-KLCC (BBKLCC) Tourism Association chairman Joyce Yap said the area is known as a tourism and shopping hub.
“The area should have a feel- good atmosphere and the sight of beggars and the homeless sleeping and begging along the walkways do not help,” she said, adding that some of them harassed shoppers.
Yap said there were many non-genuine cases and some beggars had been seen being picked up in cars.
“It looks like a syndicate. We are willing to work with the authorities to find a better solution,” she said.
Yap said genuine cases should be handled by the proper authorities as they are better equipped to do so.
Pertiwi Soup Kitchen programme founder and chairman Munirah Abdul Hamid said that there may be confusion in distinguishing between beggars and the homeless.
“The people we feed are homeless and the hardcore poor. Beggars, some of whom are involved in syndicates, do not come to soup kitchens. Those we help are trying their best to survive,” she said.
She added that many homeless have physical or mental disabilities.
“One young man I met recently suffers from Marfan Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body’s connective tissue, and can only find work as a waiter occasionally. Now, he helps out a Ramadan bazaar trader. His grandparents and parents have passed away and he goes for treatment at a government hospital sometimes.
“When he has the money, he can rent a proper place to stay but there are times he is unable to get a job and becomes homeless,” she said.
On allegations that the streets were dirtier following such operations, she said the organisation cleaned up after each session.
“I believe the place is left much cleaner compared to before we went there,” she said.
Kenosis Home co-founder pastor Richard Lee said the government is trying to institutionalise these individuals and sweep the problem under the carpet.
“They deserve to be treated with respect and dealt with in a humane manner. A real solution should be found,” he said.
A group called Canopi is being formed by a number of NGOs to deal with the homeless and one of the group members is Community Excel Services.
Its representative Debbie Loh said that they are collecting data on the situation and trying to come up with long-term solutions to the problem.
“We are working with researcher Rayna Rusenko who just finished her studies on poverty in Malaysia. We hope to work with the government and come up with solutions to resolve this issue,” she said.