THE Sarawak government has approved the establishment of a safe haven for the homeless, starting with a pilot project in Sibu with an approved allocation of RM793,623.

Welfare, Community Wellbeing, Women, Family and Childhood Development Minister Datuk Seri Fatimah Abdullah said the safe haven would be located in the Sibu Malaysian Government Servants Welfare and Sports Council (Maksak) building at Jalan Sanyan in Sibu.

“As of today, the layout plan and design of this safe haven have been finalised and endorsed by the ministry. The project is in the process of tendering by Sibu Municipal Council (SMC) as the implementing agency,” she said.

Fatimah was responding to Irene Chang (DAP-Bukit Assek) and Datuk Tiong Thai King (SUPP-Dudong) during question time during the DUN sitting today (Nov 9).

She said that a non-government organisation (NGO) — Shan Xin Charity Association Malaysia — had been appointed to operate the safe haven.

“Homelessness is one of the social issues that our ministry focuses on. As long-term measures, various initiatives will be implemented to mitigate this issue. One good example is the setting up of safe haven for the homeless,” she said.

On the numbers of homeless being located during the movement control order (MCO) period from March 18 until May 31, Fatimah said a total of 145 homeless people in Sarawak were saved and placed at various temporary shelters provided by the government.

She said 42 were from Miri, Bintulu (27), Kuching (23), Sibu (17), Sri Aman (12), Sarikei (seven), Limbang (six), Kapit (three), with Serian, Betong, Song at two each, and with Bau and Belaga one each.

“At the temporary shelters, they were provided with subsistence such as food, portable tents, hygiene kits and sleeping bags,” she said.

She added since 2016 until October this year, the ministry together with the Welfare Department and strategic partners had 153 conducted operations to locate and save the homeless.

“From the profiling, a total of 475 homeless were identified, and 62 homelessness cases were due to family problems, no place to stay (29 cases), alcohol addiction (19 cases), loss of jobs (17 cases), mental problem (16 cases), and others with 19 cases,” she said.

Fatimah also said before the homeless were placed at the temporary shelter at each division in Sarawak during the MCO period, the homeless had undergo the Covid-19 test to ensure they were free from the virus.