MP: Speed up opening of shelter for street kids

Risky behaviour: Street children running across a road in the Kota Kinabalu city centre.

KOTA KINABALU: The special shelter for street children in the city should be opened immediately as the problem of their begging antics continues to unnerve motorists, says Chan Foong Hin.

The Kota Kinabalu MP said although the state government had announced the Kota Kinabalu Special Shelter for street children on Jan 31, these youngsters were still a danger not only to themselves but also motorists.

He urged the state Community Development and People’s Well-being Ministry to immediately make the Kota Kinabalu shelter operational, adding that the state government should not delay finding solutions for the “perennial problem”.

“However, it has been a week, and the stateless kids are still out begging on the busy streets in the Kota Kinabalu city centre, knocking on car windows and frightening road users without any heed of their personal safety,” he said in a statement yesterday.

Chan, who is Deputy Agriculture and Food Security Minister, said he had spoken to the relevant parties, including the newly-appointed Community Development and People’s Well-being Minister Datuk James Ratib, to speed up the opening of the shelter.

Ratib had informed him that they were in the final stages of opening the facility.

“I contacted James Ratib, who informed me that they are procuring food now for the children before these stateless kids can be brought into the shelter soon,” he said, adding that there should be no further delays on the matter.

The street children’s shelter here will be the first, and depending on its success in resolving the problem, it will be extended to other major towns in the state with a similar problem.

On Monday, Ratib told reporters that the government had allocated funds for such protective shelters to be set up in Tawau and Sandakan.

However, the Lahad Datu district would not be included for security reasons.

He said the children would be kept at shelters for a period of time and given guidance and taught living skills as part of efforts to stop them from begging on the streets.

Many of the street children are believed to be stateless or undocumented.

In recent years, children of pelahus (sea gypsies) from the east coast of Sabah have been seen begging at main traffic intersections, sometimes with their elders joining them.

Sabah’s welfare laws only allow for citizens to be assisted and taken in by government institutions.

But the state government solved the problem of undocumented children by building special protective shelters for them and assisting them with proper living skills.

“They are being given special privileges. They are taken in to receive guidance on community living skills and to be more independent without posing a problem to the community or the image of the city,” he added.

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