COMMON SIGHT: Many of the city’s homeless can be found sleeping on benches of public transport terminals and car parks
JOHOR BARU: PUBLIC transport terminals and car parks here have become the favourite haunts of the homeless in the city.
One of them is the JB Sentral terminal where the homeless could be found sleeping on the benches meant for commuters.
The terminal was opened in 2010. It is an integrated transport hub used mainly by those commuting between Johor Baru and Singapore.
Johor Baru-based taxi driver Abd Hamid Majid, who operates at the terminal, said although the number of homeless people had reduced, there were still times when there would be about 10 of them sleeping on the benches.
"I hope that the authorities would look into this issue. There should not be any homeless people on the streets here anymore as Johor Baru has gained its city status," he said.
Another taxi driver, Aris Mohammad, 47, said many were hesitant to approach the homeless or wake them up.
"We do not want to disturb them but they are taking up the benches meant for commuters," he said.
Aris said it was also not a pretty sight to see the homeless sleeping when others were busy going to work.
A bus ticket seller at the Larkin Terminal, Firdaus Abdullah, 20, agreed that the authorities should help the homeless.
"They look pitiful and they should not have to live on the streets forever," he said.
Aris said the homeless people would usually stay at the terminal from 11pm until dawn.
"The authorities can help to inform them on the nearest shelter so that they can go there and sleep," said Firdaus.
Ali Wahab, 56, who resides in Johor Baru, said the homeless needed proper temporary shelter.
"They need to get back on their feet and get a proper job," he said.
Ali said he had seen the homeless sleeping at a private car park between Jalan Ibrahim and Jalan Selat Tebrau.
"The problem has been ongoing for the past year. They are sleeping under the shady trees," he said, adding that he does not know whether the homeless are locals or migrants.
Ali said the place was frequented by workers at Wisma Pertubuhan Peladang Negeri Johor and Bangunan Foh Chong.
A worker at the area, Wan Suhaila Wan Hassan complained that the homeless people had caused an inconvenience to the female workers.
"Although they have not disturbed us, they sometimes behave badly and have poor personal hygiene," she said.
Suhaila said it was not suitable for the homeless to live there as the place was a tourist area.
A visit by the Streets team found that there were two homeless people sleeping at the car park.
Meanwhile, the Johor Baru Social Welfare Department officer Manayi Ibrahim said the number of homeless people have been reduced by about 70 per cent in the past 10 years.
He said previously, the number of homeless people could go up to 250 at any one time.
"However, it is less of a problem now with even zero cases involving drug addicts. The problem was resolved through a collaboration between the department and Johor Baru City Council," he said.
Manayi said last year, there were 103 homeless people who were rescued by the department.
He said this year until last month, 44 homeless people were rescued.
"There are 16 Malays, 12 Indians, 10 Chinese and six foreigners.
"Most of the homeless people are staying temporarily in the country before awaiting transit to Singapore as house rents in the country are expensive. In the past 10 years, the homeless cases were dominated by foreigners," he said.
Manayi added that there are many reasons why people are homeless.
"It includes being jobless, drunk, and being abandoned by their families," said Manayi, adding that there were also homeless people with disabilities, mental illness or suffering from HIV and tuberculosis.
He said to overcome the problem, the department would provide consultation to the homeless.
"There are also campaigns to overcome this problem which include the distribution of pamphlets.
"These campaigns are also highlighted on television and in newspapers."
Manayi said last June, a shelter for the homeless was opened in Jalan Segget.
He said the shelter established under the Women, Family and Community Development Ministry is called Anjung Singgah.
The Johor Baru Social Welfare Department has listed railway stations as among the favourite spots for the homeless in the city centre.
Other places include Komtar Johor Baru City Centre, Jalan Wong Ah Fook, Dataran Bandaraya Johor Baru and the old Custom and Immigration Quarantine Complex (Bangunan Sultan Iskandar).