Rise in number of homeless people in KL

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Ms Munirah Abdul Hamid (second from right) of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen instructing her volunteers.

Mr S. Sathi moved to the big city four years ago from the Seremban rubber plantations to what he thought would be a better life as a construction worker building expensive condominiums.

But two years ago, two thieves scarred half his face with acid and took everything he owned in his knapsack, including his identification documents and savings.

The 57-year-old managed to get medical treatment, but he lost his job and has since been homeless.

"I desperately want a job. Anything also can," said Mr Sathi, when he spoke to The Sunday Times at a public square between two banks in Kuala Lumpur.

"I cannot even eat every day."

This bustling place in central KL near Petaling Street, a tourist landmark, quietens late at night.

This is when dozens of homeless people appear with their pieces of cardboard to bunk down on five-foot-ways or wooden benches, in the shadows of the city's skyscrapers.

The banks' security guards tolerate them as long as they are not violent, and sympathetic beat cops close an eye, even to the few drug addicts among them.

Most of them are jobless or looking for employment. Many are from out of town, looking for opportunities and failing.

A street survey in April by the Buddhist-run Kechara Soup Kitchen showed there were at least 1,500 homeless people on KL's streets, with two-thirds of them aged between 30 and 60.

The transient nature of the homeless means it is difficult for the authorities to keep track of the numbers.

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