PETALING JAYA - Non-governmental organisations working with the homeless have objected to next month's Ops Qaseh that was meant to get the downtrodden off the streets.
They say that the operation demonstrated "a severe lack of understanding and empathy" over the problem of homelessness.
"I have seen how the raids are conducted," Munirah Hamid of Pertiwi Soup Kitchen said.
"They are treated without compassion," she said, alleging that some of the homeless people were dragged away.
On Wednesday, Women, Family and Community Development Minister Datuk Rohani Abdul Karim said the ministry would work with enforcement agencies to get the homeless into shelters and to find them jobs apart from cracking down on begging syndicates.
The homeless will be taken to national rehabilitation centres under the Welfare Department for assessment and rehabilitation where they will remain for about a month before they are "returned to their homes or sent to relevant institutions".
NGO Food Not Bombs said in a statement that conducting "sweeps" was a mere excuse of sweeping the problem under the carpet, without dealing with larger issues.
"Homelessness is a visual sign of a larger problem in society that is destabilising the lives of countless people in Malaysia today, such as labour exploitation, inadequate mental healthcare, domestic violence, insufficient access to income (including pensions or other social assistance), regional disparities in development, and social and economic inequality.
"Problems like these can't be solved by targeting vulnerable people, removing them from the streets and depriving them of their rights and liberties by sending them to 'rehabilitation' centres," the statement added.
Serdang MP Dr Ong Kian Ming said in a statement that the Government's solution was "too simplistic".
"There are many reasons why someone is homeless," he said. These include "mental illness, falling into debt, drug or alcohol problems, being abandoned, escaping from abusive spouses, ex-convicts who cannot find jobs and foreigners whose visas have expired."
Ong proposed that the ministry set up a Joint Ministerial Working Group to coordinate a comprehensive and systematic effort to understand and tackle the issue.