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LETTER | Malaysia’s official statistics reveal that the number of homeless people in the country has drastically increased compared to the previous years.

Between 2000 and 2009, the average number of homeless throughout Malaysia who were detained by social welfare officers was 1,300. However, from 2015 to 2019, the number of beggars rescued during operations conducted in that period totalled 14,863!

And since the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the homelessness issue now has become a nationwide problem. It has been estimated that there has been an increase of as much as 20 to 30 percent of city inhabitants who have become homeless since the start of the pandemic.

Another disappointing fact is that the actual number of homeless is higher than the figures reported.

Systemic reform

The root causes of homelessness in Malaysia are the extremely poor socioeconomic status of a segment of the population as well as the weak national welfare system. These factors are what actually cause a lot of citizens to become homeless as they do not have strong and stable financial support. Only systemic reform can effectively tackle these root causes.

The government must take a holistic approach through the relevant ministries as well as departments in order to tackle the root causes of homelessness so that it can be effectively resolved.

Some of the steps which the government should take are:

  • Providing low-cost housing for the B20 poorest category of the country’s population.

  • Immediately halting the practice of evicting people from their houses without at least offering them alternative housing.

  • Strengthening the country’s social safety net such as establishing a pension scheme so that those without sufficient financial resources as well as family support do not easily become homeless.

  • Ensuring that all Malaysians are given higher priority in job opportunities than foreign workers so that the poorest citizens can at least generate sufficient income in order to sustain their lives. The wages should be high enough and at a deserved level in order to sustain one’s cost of living during these current times.

  • Implementing a pension scheme for the elderly to financially help support the livelihoods of our elderly population as well as their families.

  • Employing those homeless who are capable of working in appropriate jobs so that they can obtain an income to become self-sufficient.

  • Establishing more homeless care centres which provide treatment and rehabilitation programmes, especially for drug users, such as the Desa Bina Diri (DBD) institutes. Currently, there are too few DBD institutes in the country.

  • Developing a community health worker system so that those health workers can provide emotional support and guidance to the homeless in care centres. They can help those homeless individuals to obtain any needed healthcare, transport services, nutritious food, etc.

All this assistance will improve the general well-being of the homeless as well as make them more independent and self-sufficient so that they can contribute to the country.

Fundamental rights

Each and every individual in Malaysia does not deserve to live as a homeless person. As human beings, they have fundamental rights and should be given enough financial support in order to be self-sufficient.

However, only a holistic approach that tackles the root causes of homelessness will be able to provide an effective solution.

Therefore, as a responsible and caring government, the government should take holistic steps such as the above so that problem of homelessness in our country can be effectively resolved.

The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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