Jakarta seeks to protect poor as Covid-19 outbreak leaves many homeless

Medical staff wear protective suits during a medical check-up for the homeless after authorities prepared the sports halls for homeless people to prevent the spread of the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) in Jakarta, Indonesia, April 27, 2020.
PHOTO: Reuters

The Jakarta administration has set up a number of homeless shelters across the city as the economic slowdown caused by the Covid-19 outbreak forces some hard-hit residents to live on the sidewalk as they are no longer able to afford to pay their rent.

A recent KompasTV report showed dozens of Jakartans, some of whom were small traders, resting on the sidewalks in the Tanah Abang area of Central Jakarta at nightfall, awaiting aid from volunteers who usually come during the fasting month.

"I had a small stall in Kota Tua [in West Jakarta]. Because of the coronavirus outbreak, I lost my customers and the government's regulations prohibited me from opening my place. Meanwhile, we must eat and pay for housing," Reza, one of the homeless people, said in an interview.

The Jakarta administration has said that it plans to turn all city-owned sports halls (GOR) across the capital into temporary homeless shelters for those who have lost their jobs and homes because of the pandemic.

"The important thing is that no one is abandoned," Governor Anies Baswedan said recently, adding that the sports halls would also be equipped with public kitchens.

The Jakarta Public Order Agency (Satpol PP) relocated 92 homeless people, who were found on the streets in Central Jakarta and South Jakarta on Friday and Saturday, to the Karet Tengsin GOR in Tanah Abang.

Central Jakarta Social Agency head Ngapuli Peranginangin said, however, that the majority of those relocated had relatives in the areas surrounding Jakarta who picked them up shortly after relocation.

"We conducted an assessment so that the homeless people's backgrounds were clear. We have given them and their family a statement of warning to prevent them from returning to the streets," Ngapuli told The Jakarta Post on Monday.

He said there were nine people left in the GOR, who had no relatives living nearby and who could not go back to their hometowns in Papua and Riau due to the government's mudik (exodus) ban.

"Our targets are the victims of the pandemic, including those who suffer because of policies like the mudik ban, or medical workers kicked out of their rooming houses. But we haven't found that many of them," Ngapuli said.

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