SUNGAI BULOH - The authorities have planned a crackdown on beggars and homeless people in Kuala Lumpur next month.
It will see a three-pronged approach initiated by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry, aided by police, the Immigration Department, city council and the National Anti-Drug Agency (AADK).
The operation aims to get the homeless off the streets and into shelters, find them jobs and crack down on begging syndicates.
Minister Datuk Seri Rohani Abdul Karim announced the campaign at a press conference at the Sungai Buloh halfway home yesterday, saying that it was part of an attempt by her ministry to clean up the streets.
The ministry's Ops Qaseh will bring the homeless and beggars to the Sungai Buloh reintegration centre.
The halfway home will provide food and lodging, counselling, recreational facilities, healthcare and practical training such as agriculture, vocational skills and handicraft.
The second part of the ministry's approach will be to give a list of names to hypermarkets and supermarkets around the nation in order to secure jobs for the homeless.
"There are 40,000 vacancies that should be filled by Malaysians, not foreign workers," Rohani said.
The third tool employed by the ministry is the Henti Memberi, Kami Perihatin (Stop Giving, We Are Concerned) campaign, which will educate Malaysians on not giving money to panhandlers.
"The campaign has received overwhelming public support," she said, adding that recent statistics showed that the number of beggars had declined from 1,446 in 2011 to 356 as of April. The minister said that when she went down to the ground she discovered that many of the homeless were "able-bodied and aware".
She said that some were trying to save as much money as possible to send home and, as a result, had resorted to sleeping on the streets and eating food provided by good Samaritans in order to keep costs low.
Rohani said her earlier statement about the generosity of Malaysians "keeping people on the street" had been misconstrued as she was in no way criticising public donations.
"Malaysians are generous, there is no doubt about that. We are merely asking for NGOs to redirect their charity to our homes and other places that need help, not on the streets."
There are currently four halfway homes in Malaysia: Mersing, with a 450-person capacity, Jerantut (300), Kota Kinabalu (80) and Sungai Buloh (200).