The homeless is a problem for the Federal Government as they try to bring Malaysia up to the First World level while being irked by the presence of dirty hungry men and women in the streets of the Golden Triangle in Kuala Lumpur.
Economists are fully aware that the economic model of growth they build are rest squarely on the energies and ingenuity of the clever and able-bodied people. The rest falls by the wayside of mainstream economic development - the disadvantaged, the very young, the very old, the very sick, the uneducated, single parents, the physically handicapped, the mentally handicapped. While the best solution is to help as many of these people to find stable jobs, it is most likely that they may have already failed the conventional social system and hence are being left out in the cold and therefore are difficult to rehabilitate back into the mainstream. There is therefore a need for society to act to help these people, at least, as a means for society to save its own soul so that it can think of itself as a caring society.
This moral obligation of society to itself could have been easier in the good old days of monoculturalism - whatever that may mean, but surely it exists when the whole society sees itself as one. This sense of monoculturism seems to break down when a section of society is seen as alien, and it is mostly likely to be recent immigrants whom the so-called locals feel uncomfortable with because they are unfamiliar with them. It means that the moral obligation of society is unlikely to be stretched to include foreigners in the country.
The response of the government of the day to the homeless is to provide a home for these people to stay, and to keep them off the streets. This follows logically from the idea that all that the homeless needs is a home, so the government provides a shelter and nothing else. We have the welfare minister saying that they provide shelter but no food. This is being typically government servant mentally - they do the barest minimum and justify that they have done their job.
The response of the NGOs is to provide first food and then shelter, in that order of priority. The biggest curse for human beings and all living creatures is that the ingestion of nutrient is a daily requirement, failing which we die. I am always amazed by the persistence of life to cling on to life - this must be a tautology, for without the clinging on to life, there is no life, by definition. (It is only politics and religions that make heroes of death, for it is so counter-intuitive.)
The most stupid argument I have read so far is for the minister to suggest the NGOs go and feed their people in the welfare homes, and not in the streets.
The now more acceptable approach to solve social problems is for the government to consult the affected people and communities to find out what their problems are and to listen to what these people have to say about how they would like to have their problems solved. It is most likely that well-fed politicians will have a different perspective from those who unwillingly have to go hungry when their circumstances are outside their control. These people may want to have a sense of dignity and self-respect and that can only be got from a sense of control of their situation rather than be caught in bureaucracy.