Homelessness in Kuala Lumpur. Not many would care to admit the existence of those without homes in Malaysia's modern capital. Urban poverty is invisible to the eyes of the social elites. They see the grand shopping malls, the mighty Twin Towers and the roar of expensive cars littering the roads.


I walk the streets, absorbing the sights and sound of the back lanes near Masjid Jamek. Migrant workers, the lost odd foreigner and a handful of drug users make these small roads their temporary hangouts.

The night is stifling. An annoying humidity which seems to enthral tourists however I find it suffocating. My t-shirt, drenched with sweat, sticks to my body. The weather tonight has left its mark, my headache is back.

I recognise some old faces, weather-beaten skin, darting eyes with frail bodies. Drug users are still on the streets, many have no destination and with no access to comfortable beds and air-con rooms. No escape from the elements, the city's pollution and vulnerable to swarms of vermin and violence.

Despite the heavy presence of Malaysian NGOs in Kuala Lumpur, not many are active at night, definitely not at such ungodly hour. There's a need for outreach workers at this time, to offer counselling, harm reduction services and guide them to the nearest shelter that harbours no prejudice.

If only that was true. Most are comfortably in their homes, or hanging out with friends or snoring away in safety. Seems NGOs are keen to operate during "work hours" that 9am-5pm mentality. But then again, not many NGOs want to work on issues of harm reduction, much less offer assistance to drug users. So much for human rights.

The night is young; Kuala Lumpur is a monster, heavily hidden behind cosmetics and the dream of opportunities. This city, is a nightmare, feeding upon the apathy of Malaysian society.

Welcome to Kuala Lumpur. My city.

View comments