By Nancy Nais
KUCHING, Mar 25: Minister of Welfare, Women and Community Wellbeing Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah took to the streets today to check on city vagrants as the Restricted Movement Order (RMO) against Covid-19 is enforced across the nation.
Together with MBKS mayor Datuk Wee Hong Seng and personnel from Welfare Department and police, they caught four male vagrants at Song Kheng Hai hawker centre and a recreational park near MBKS.
Upon meeting them, Fatimah, who spoke in fluent Hokkien, gently attempted to persuade the four to agree to temporarily moving to Anjung Singgah at Jalan Rubber for the time being.
She informed them of the Covid-19 pandemic, the RMO and how unsafe it was for them to roam around at this moment.
Fatimah also assured that they would be given food, a place to shower and stay throughout the RMO.
Out of the four, three finally agreed but one actually packed his belongings in a bag and walked away.
“We received a lot of information from the police whenever they meet vagrants in the streets.
“The ministry, together with the police will then visit these people. However, most of them refuse to be taken away from where they are. They get agitated and angry when we ask them to move to a temporary shelter. That is our dilemma right now.
“But we need to help them especially during this Covid-19 period. For those whom we found in Kuching, we will send them to Anjung Singgah. For Sibu, they will be placed at government rest house, and for Miri, we will sort out with the branch state disaster committee. This will be temporary as we want them to be at a safer place as well instead of roaming around the street at this moment,” Fatimah told reporters.
She acknowledged that Anjung Singgah was not the solution to the vagrant issue as it is just a temporary shelter for the homeless, but Fatimah told reporters that the important thing was for everyone to assist in tackling the Covid-19 issue first.
Meanwhile, the department has conducted 83 operations since 2016 to identify the number of vagrants statewide.
As at March 24, there are 144 of them, with Kuching having the highest numbers, followed by Sibu, Bintulu and Miri.
These vagrants include those who have mental illness and others who have substance abuse issues.
According to the ministry’s statistics, 195 have been saved by either returning them to their respective homes, or placed at old age homes. —DayakDaily