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PUBLISHED: Jul 5, 2014 4:00pm

It’s a misconception that only the homeless resort to soup kitchens

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SUKHBIR CHEEMA By:
Sukhbir Cheema

Life is hard for those living on the streets as most of them can't afford three square meals a day. Sometimes, the only decent meal they get is when soup kitchens visit their areas. — TRP pic by Arif Kartono

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KUALA LUMPUR, July 5:

Not all who consume food from soup kitchens within the 2km radius from Lot 10 here are homeless.

However, the majority of them are stricken with extreme poverty.

Sumon Bhuwmik, a foreign contractor worker was among the throng of the destitute denizens of the city who lined up to obtain plastic bags filled with bread, biscuits and a bottle of water from Pertiwi Soup Kitchen yesterday.

“Today we have more food. I think it is because of the media spotlight,” the chirpy 45-year-old from Sylhet, Bangladesh said when interviewed by The Rakyat Post.

The Bangladeshi national has been working in Malaysia for the past six years and longs to go back home when his contract ends in December.

“I come here sometimes to obtain food when I don’t have enough money with me,” he said, adding that he earns RM1,000 per month.

“RM400 is sent back home, while RM200 is kept for my permit renewal while RM300 is saved for food and the rest of the money is used to call home.”

Bhuwmik, who was promised a high salary job by his agent, said with the rise in the cost of living, food prices in restaurants had gone up, leading soup kitchens to be a boon for many foreign nationals.

“I feel embarrassed coming here to get free food but what can I do?

“Life is tough and my family does not know I work as a contractor,” he said, revealing that his wife works as a teacher in Sylhet.

“See how difficult it is for me to face them?”

Bhuwmik is not the only one who feels ashamed for getting free food.

Mohd Anuar Abdullah, a former bodyguard of a Datuk has been on the streets for five months after his marriage had broken down, leading him to survive with only eight pairs of clothing with petrol stations as his only means to have a decent shower.

“Right now, I’ll tell you truthfully, I only have 50 sen in my pocket,” the 45-year-old said, as he revealed a dusty 50 sen coin to The Rakyat Post.

“I have been trying to seek jobs through an agent I met but he keeps promising but nothing is really happening.”

Mohd Anuar revealed that with the soup kitchens available, he is able to survive the fasting month.

“I did not have a proper meal to break fast yesterday. Let alone a decent Sahur,” he said, adding that he has no intention to go back to his family as they had disowned him.

When asked how he plans to procure food when soup kitchens are no longer allowed to serve the homeless, he looked up at the gloomy Kuala Lumpur night sky and murmured softly, “Only God knows.”

Being on the streets for five months is a piece of cake compared with the trouble Fatimah Abdullah went through.

The 54-year-old has been homeless for the past 30 years, leading her to resort to various odd jobs to have a decent meal.

“I even had to become a drug dealer at one point,” the Penang born said, revealing that she was caught twice by the authorities and once by the Welfare Department (JKM).

“The JKM people are nice, but their facilities are terrible. They placed me in a welfare centre in Mersing where the shower gave me terrible rashes. I decided to leave.”

Fatimah, who earns RM170 as a cleaner in a building here said she has no contact with her family in Penang.

“I don’t know how they are. All I do after work at 6pm is loiter the streets here. This is my only home.”

The well versed homeless woman says she has high blood pressure but looks forward  to whenever Pertiwi Soup Kitchen make their rounds to provide food.

“When I’m sick, I only have a tablet of Panadol with me. And when Pertiwi volunteers come, I know I won’t have an empty stomach for the night.”

The homeless and poverty stricken are set to be affected should Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor’s call for a ban on soup kitchens within a 2km radius of Lot 10, here, comes into effect with generous alm givers to be penalised RM150 and the homeless to be hauled up.

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