Kuala Lumpur: Homelessness, Revisited

Homelessness is not a new societal dilemma in Kuala Lumpur. In fact, homelessness affect even beyond the urban and rural poor. Often communities struggle with high cost of living, poor mental health, societal stigmatization and unemployment.

Malaysia, with its 30-odd million people, is blessed with natural resources, surrounded by non-threatening neighbours, a wealth of knowledge left behind by her colonial masters. Malaysia, my country, has moved largely away from an agricultural nation, into the sophisticated, modern country that it is now, with Kuala Lumpur as its pulsing, growing heart of bourgeoisie appetite.

However with rapid urbanization, poor public administration, clueless NGOs and a money-hungry society which seems to enjoy feeding upon itself, the marginalization of communities has grown. Homeless folks, visibly more Malaysians than foreigners, some from the distant shores of Malaysia’s Borneo, of Sabah and Sarawak. They, and some with their families, flock the roads, back lanes, the commercial centres and the capitalistic monuments of modern development. Yet despite their visibility, they find that the middle-class urbanites and elites are more often uninterested in helping the poor, those in need. Class-based prejudice, sometimes infused with racism, and even xenophobia, is the dominating component that makes Kuala Lumpur what it is now.

A city, filled with loss.

Elder, homeless and begging in the heart of capitalistic Kuala Lumpur.

Elder, homeless and begging in the heart of capitalistic Kuala Lumpur.

A temporary home, in plain sight of corporate offices. Yet urban society ignores the homeless, maybe hoping they would simply disappear.

A temporary home, in plain sight of corporate offices. Yet urban society ignores the homeless, maybe hoping they would simply disappear.

Urbanites usually ignore the plights of Malaysians and foreigners who are homeless in the city.

Urbanites usually ignore the plights of Malaysians and foreigners who are homeless in the city.

Modernisation of Kuala Lumpur. Only the elites enjoy true luxury and comfort.

Modernisation of Kuala Lumpur. Only the elites enjoy true luxury and comfort.

This couple does not appear to be hungry or homeless, but they were begging near KL Sentral.

This couple does not appear to be hungry or homeless, but they were begging near KL Sentral.

Under the scorching sun, surrounded by Malaysian monuments of development, this man begs for coins.

Under the scorching sun, surrounded by Malaysian monuments of development, this man begs for coins.

 

 

Zashnain

An avid blogger, twitterer and photojournalist, Zashnain Zainal suffers from an incurable addiction to social work, helping marginalised communities since 1989. Nowadays he travels from the plantations of Malaysia to the slums of Thailand. He can be found at zashnain.com and @bedlamfury

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