Johor opens 'hotel' for the homeless

Volunteers making the beds in the women's dormitory at Anjung Singgah in Johor Baru.

JOHOR BARU - Having to curl to up under bridges, sleep on sidewalks or in the dark corners of the city is a sad fact of life for those who cannot afford a roof over their head,

However, a more comfortable refuge is now available for them. It's a "free hotel" known as Anjung Singgah in Jalan Segget here.

As long as you have a Malaysian identification card, a person can "check in" to the four-storey centre and stay for up to two weeks.

The centre, which provides temporary shelter to the homeless, was established by the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry while the National Welfare Foundation Malaysia (NWF) manages it.

Since it opened its doors on June 9, an average of 10 to 40 people have been staying there.

Those staying here do not just get a roof over their heads but receive three free meals, basic toiletries including a towel, sarong, toothbrush with tooth paste and a bar of soap.

Most occupants are in their 40s and include the city's homeless and those who come to Johor Baru and Singapore in search of work.

NWF chief executive officer Datuk Sayed A. Rahman Sayed Mohd said the Johor Baru Anjung Singgah was the third such centre to be launched after Kuala Lumpur and Kuching.

"We started this project last year as we felt there was a need to provide shelter for the homeless in the city," he said in an interview.

Sayed said they took in anyone as long as they were not alcoholics or those with diseases or addictions such as drugs.

"We are unable to take such people in at this moment as you need expertise in dealing with such people. We also have to worry about the safety of the others staying here," he said.

Sayed said the people were free to come and go but the doors were closed from 11pm to 5am.

He added that their projects in Kuala Lumpur, which started in 2011, and in Kuching last year, have been successful.

"We hope to duplicate this success in Johor Baru as we hope that this centre will help bring about hope to the homeless.

"Besides providing a place to stay, we also help them find jobs by matching them with employers who register with us," he added.

MRCS Johor Baru chapter deputy chairman Velasamy S. Pillai said the body supplied volunteers who helped to manage the meals besides giving basic medical assistance around the clock," he said.

He said the centre, which could accommodate 95 people at a time, had a dormitory for men and women on separate floors.

"There are also several family rooms for mothers with little children. There is also a dining area on the ground floor and lockers for people to keep their items," he said, adding that they were also allocated a floor with desks and computers where occupants can work on their resumes to apply for jobs.

For more details, contact 07-2213349 or visit http://www.yknm.org.