KUALA LUMPUR: AHEAD of a meeting with Federal Territories Minister Datuk Seri Tengku Adnan Tengku Mansor tomorrow, soup kitchen operators have expressed their intention to continue distributing food to the poor and homeless in the city centre.

These non-governmental organisations (NGOs) are willing to abide by the decision made by the authorities, but more than anything, they hope they can reach an amicable solution to the issue, including permanent facilities to carry out food distribution.

Kechara Welfare Centre project director Justin Cheah said he had high hopes for tomorrow’s meeting.

“I think Tengku Adnan will come up with a win-win solution and I am glad he has called for the meeting so that we can give our input.”

“Our centre has a soup kitchen located at Jalan Barat off Jalan Imbi and we distribute food on the streets on Saturday nights,” said Cheah, adding that volunteers would pick up the trash after every distribution and dispose of it appropriately.

Pertiwi Soup Kitchen chairman and founder Munirah Abdul Hamid said a few permanent locations for soup kitchens would be a step in the right direction.

“We distribute food at four locations — Chow Kit, Kota Raya, Masjid India and Masjid Negara. If there were permanent soup kitchens around the city where people could sit down and eat, this would be great. But there are some who avoid eating with other people, preferring to eat alone or away from the public.”

Munirah said Pertiwi took its own measures to ensure the hygiene of the food and cleanliness of distribution areas.

On Thursday, Tengku Adnan said the ministry was disallowing soup kitchens to operate within a 2km radius of Lot 10 shopping complex and Bukit Bintang. This was decided as food distributed by soup kitchen volunteers was often not disposed of properly, leading to rubbish piled up in the city and attracting rats and other pests. His statement was met with unhappiness from certain quarters, with most soup kitchen operators saying they will be defying the order to move out of the Golden Triangle area, and continue distributing food there.

Asked about the concerns over hygiene, Munirah said the homeless should not be singled out for littering, as it is a common habit among Malaysians.

“We hope the one-stop centre as proposed by Tengku Adnan for the homeless would have facilities for the latter to express their creativity and earn income.”

Munirah said Pertiwi was open to suggestions by the authorities, provided they were practical for volunteers and the homeless.

“Make it a real discussion where both sides work towards practical solutions. Don’t just meet up without listening because NGOs have a better understanding of the real needs out there,” said Munirah, adding she had yet to receive an invitation for tomorrow’s meeting.

Tengku Adnan said he would stand firm on his decision to relocate all feeding programmes for the homeless.

City Hall’s Health and Environment Department director Dr
Hayati Abdullah said there were no guidelines for the distribution of food.

“Our main concern is when people take the food away and do not dispose of it properly,” she said, adding that soup kitchens in other countries were located in permanent places, such as shop lots with a waste management system.

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