Wednesday, May 18, 2022

Hari Raya for the homeless on the streets of Kuala Lumpur

Living rough means that many are dependent on charity for any form of celebration they might have.

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He was dismissed from his unit after being diagnosed with pneumonia in 2014. He found a job as a full-time production operator at a plant in Shah Alam but the factory shut down in order to move its operations to Thailand.

Now, he spends his days on the streets as his health deteriorates.

Ruslan used to rent a room in Setapak but was evicted once he could no longer pay his rent during the Covid-19 lockdown. This will be his second year without a home.

His home town is in Taiping, Perak. In his heart, he dreams of returning to spend Hari Raya with his mother but he knows this is unlikely to materialise.

He and his friend Fuad, who is also homeless, rely on the scraps they collect from the roads. Like him, Fuad lost his job in the food and beverage industry due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Sometimes, they receive assistance from NGOs which give them second-hand clothes and basic hygiene kits containing items such as toothpaste and soap.

For the most part, though, they are shunned by the public.

Each day, their store of money grows smaller and smaller while they share what little food they have between them.

The only bed they know is the cold floor of the five-foot ways where they spend the night.

NGOs do what they can to check on them and make sure that they have enough to eat, but life is still hard on the streets.

A piece of mosquito coil secured in an empty mineral water bottle helps keep insects away as they sleep.

Here, the homeless live side by side, bound by their common experiences and hardships.

Mazlan, who is originally from Sarawak, has lived on the streets of Kuala Lumpur for eight years now. He came to the city centre in hopes of finding a better life for himself and his family but his dreams never came true.

As night falls, the homeless and poor emerge to mingle on the streets where they talk and laugh until the wee hours of the morning.

Even children come out onto the streets which, come morning, will be packed with traffic and pedestrians once more.

An NGO member speaks to some of them before distributing donations of clothes and duit Raya ahead of Hari Raya. For many, this will be the only celebration they have.

A young girl pushes a woman in a wheelchair as they make their way towards the spot where the donations are being handed out.

NGO members take out armfuls of clothes arranged by size to give to the poor and homeless of Kuala Lumpur.

Women kneel on the ground beneath a tree to go through the clothes they have received as more join the queue.

A volunteer holds a shirt against a man, to gauge its fit.

Others go back for more clothes to distribute to those waiting patiently in line.

Another volunteer holds a baju kurung against a woman to estimate how well it will fit.

Meanwhile, children smile as they, too, wait in line.

They also receive packets of duit Raya, likely the only such envelopes they will get this year.

As dawn draws near, families begin making their way back to their homes, such as they are, to catch a little rest before the next day on the streets begins.

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