One big home for the destitute

Homeless people resting along the poorly lit Masjid Jamek-Central Market walkway.

KUALA LUMPUR - There is literally no roof over their heads but home is where the heart is.

Take for example Awang Dollah, 44, who sleeps on the sidewalks near Medan Pasar square here.

"I am happy here. There is no reason for me to go home," he said.

Awang, who is a Sarawakian, said that he had been here for the past 12 years following a failed marriage. He also left his three children behind.

"I came here to work and be independent. But I struggled to get a permanent job. I have been doing the occasional odd jobs since then," he said.

He did not feel the need to work to buy a house as the city itself felt like home to him.

"I get food for free in addition to free shelter at any part of the city," he said.

Asked whether he missed his children, Awang became emotional.

"It's only human to miss your family. But if I return home to my village near Kuching, I would not be happy either. It is a dull life there," he said.

Awang said as long as soup kitchens are available, he is here to stay.

"Whenever I get some money from helping out at the Pasar Pudu, I would use it to buy new clothes and get a haircut," he said.

There is also camaraderie of sorts among the destitute.

One man who only wished to be known as Jeffrey spoke about a 30-something man who approached him for cash.

"I was in a fast food outlet when he asked me for money," he said, adding that he gave him some bread and advised him to get a job.

As for Jeffrey, he said he had found it tough to find work after his retirement.

"I had to do odd jobs. I have health problems like diabetes and high blood pressure," said Jeffrey, 59.

"My wife and son left me in 1996 and only my sister meets me once in a while. I don't have any financial backing. I don't have a place to stay," he said.