Soup kitchen provides a lifeline for KL’s homeless and lower income folks

KUALA LUMPUR: It was about 7pm and traffic flow was heavy in the city's commercial area with workers hurrying home.

Admidst this hustle and bustle of city life, there were some 20 people in tattered clothes laying down on the hard pavements near the shops.

Oblivious to passersby, this group of homeless and lower income people gather here almost every Monday night waiting for a warm meal provided by a non-governmental organisation, Pertiwi Soup Kitchen.

A former security guard, who prefers to be called Pakcik Shah, warns theSun to stay away from certain members in the group as they may have communicable diseases.

He has been on the streets for almost five years after losing his job, and now has a regime which sustains him daily which includes sleeping rough in several spots like Chow Kit.

He also goes to different places to beg and gets between RM10 and RM40 a day.

"I'm not ashamed. I'm not forcing them to give me money but I need to eat. Otherwise, how am I to live?" stressed the 50-year-old.

Asked if he knew about Anjung Singgah, a temporary shelter and intervention centre for the homeless near Central Market, he shook his head.

"They only allow us to stay for one or two weeks then we have to move out. I'd rather sleep on the streets. At least no one will bother me," he replied.

As he moved away, two women appeared and sat beside us.

"I've been coming here for two months now after moving from Kajang," explained Meena, who is from Indonesia. She has just finished a 12-hour shift working at the stalls near the MARA building and spoke of her financial difficulties.

"So what is there to be ashamed of waiting here for food? " she said, as a van bringing a group of soup kitchen volunteers, arrived at about 9pm.

The volunteers set up three stations along a small road and by now the number of homeless and poor had increased to more than 100. As if on cue, they lined up at the stations and received packed food and syrup drinks. There was also medical attention for those needing it.

The volunteers including university students helped to serve the food and drinks and were careful not to leave any litter behind.

Munirah Abdul Hamid, who started the soup kitchen initiative in 2010, said they would need to need to move to Medan Kasih, a stone's throw away, soon and this followed discussions with Kuala Lumpur City Hall (DBKL) recently.

She said the new premises was better as it had toilet facilities, better lighting and larger space which was safer for children.

On the food served. she said each packet, consisting of rice, vegetables and chicken, has gone up in price from RM4.20 to RM4.50 after the onset of the Goods and Services Tax.