So a couple of nights ago, I was part of the Singgah Sahur team for episode No 2 of the latest season. Our mission was to to distribute sahur meals for the homeless around KL city. Also part of the entourage was a group of UiTM students who came all the way from Melaka.
Our first stop was Dataran Merdeka where we were also joined by JKM officers who became our guide.
It was rather early then (around 11pm), but as we walked to the fountain area, we saw quite a number of people sleeping wherever they could. (There were loads of teens there as well doing God knows what, but that's a different story altogether).
Some of us approached these unfortunate people (the homeless, I mean), woke them up and gave them the food we had brought. It was already an eye-opener at this point as they told us their sad tales and we listened with a mixed sense of regret and disbelief.
Then we moved to Masjid Negara. Again we saw quite a number of the homeless sleeping on benches and on card-boards on the ground. Aduan Rakyat journalist Puspa and I, approached some of them and handed them some food.
I managed to talk to one pakcik, and his story was heart-breaking. He's been sleeping in that area for a few days and is waiting for an answer for a security guard job he applied. He's never been married, and doesn't want to "menyusahkan" his siblings. When I asked him when was the last time he lived in his own house, he told me that he had never owned a proper home, and that he always looked for jobs that came with accommodation. If not, he would have to live like that, using public toilets to cleanse himself and hope he'd have enough money to buy food.
He also told us about the risks of sleeping there including getting robbed, which was what happened to a few of the people he knew. I know right, who robs the homeless??
We then moved to Central Market and the situation there wasn't any less heartbreaking. The newly renovated, well-lit walkway was lined with the homeless from all races. Most of them still had a pack of "bubur lambuk" (that I'm sure was collected from the nearby Masjid Jamek) near them, maybe saving it for sahur later.
FYI, at the different stops, there were always a few who ran away when they saw us or the TV3 vehicles. Most of them were shocked and startled to see so many people crowding around them with lights and cameras, while others were more calm and were willing to talk to us without any problems.
We did experience some aggressive behaviour near the Puduraya roundaout area, where there were a lot more of the homeless than anywhere else. Some of them weren't happy that we woke them up from their sleep and didn't want to be on camera. Totally understandable.
But there was one pakcik who was more than happy to tell his story to the show's producer, Teh Syuhada. I heard part of their conversation. The pakcik was an ex soldier and was quite bitter that someone who had served the country would eventually live on the streets. And when asked about his relatives, he said: "Sedara ni, kalau ada kereta besar, duit, kebun, barulah nak mengaku sedara. Kalau tak, memang buat tak kenal je".
Our final stop was at the Anjung Singgah YKN at Jalan Hang Lekiu, a home for the homeless initiated by Kementerian Pembagunan Wanita, Keluarga dan Masyarakat after a report was made by the Aduan Rakyat team on the state of the homeless. Here, the homeless could register themselves and stay at the hostel where food is provided for up to two weeks while the Yayasan Kebajikan Masyarakat people looked for suitable jobs for them.
We left at around 4am that morning and I went home with a lot to ponder. KL didn't look majestic that night with images of the homeless stuck in my mind. Why had society, you and I, let these people down, and what more could be done now?
You can watch this episode of Singgah Sahur on TV3 at 12.30am this Sunday with the repeat at 5pm on the same day.
* Now you can watch it online HERE