Cover Story: Urban Poor in Ipoh

By Nabilah Hamudin, Tan Mei Kuan and Ili Aqilah

Urban poor, whether in Ipoh or other major cities in the country are finding it harder to get by as the rising cost of living threatens to further erode their spending power. However, as classified by the state government, urban poor in Ipoh is not considered a serious phenomenon.

According to Perak Implementation Unit (ICU), as of October 15, Perak has recorded a total of 155 urban poor, while 29 people are reported as hardcore poverty (in Ipoh). It makes a total of 184 families.

In this issue, Ipoh Echo talked to authorities, and charity groups that have been a lifeline for the city’s underprivileged who are grappling to survive in the city.

NGOs Are Providing the Main Support

What Do the Authorities Say?

Dato’ Saarani Mohamad, Perak Exco and Committee Chairman of Rural Development, Agriculture, Plantation, Information and Human Capital Development

Perak Exco and Committee Chairman of Rural Development, Agriculture, Plantation, Information and Human Capital Development, Dato’ Saarani Mohamad shared his views with Ipoh Echo on the current situation of urban poor in Ipoh.

In Ipoh, people who earn between RM500 to RM1501 are considered urban poor. He told Ipoh Echo that urban poor in Ipoh, when compared to other major cities,  is not classified as a bad phenomenon.

Based on statistics, 147 families (out of 184) are Malays, followed by Indian (30), Chinese (2) and others (5).

“Most of the urban poor in Ipoh earn RM1001 to RM1500 monthly,” he said, adding that most of them are aged between 41 and 50. Out of 184 families, 52 of them earned income below RM500. He disclosed that the groups of urban poor in Ipoh are paid employees, self-employed, housewives, and some were non-productive.

The state government is aware of this issue, and despite it not being as bad as in Kuala Lumpur has in fact, taken various actions and measures.

Among the programmes initiated to eradicate the urban poor in Ipoh are ‘Program Baik Pulih Rumah Daif di Bandar’, ‘Program Azam Bandar’ and Food Basket Programme to help the underprivileged.

For ‘Program Baik Pulih Rumah Daif di Bandar’, urban poor can apply maximum of RM12,000 to either repair their dilapidated houses or build a new house. It depends on the condition of the house. Urban poor can apply it at

For those who earn RM1000 and below, they can get business assistance up to RM10,000. The government will provide the business capital as well as guidance. They can apply it through

Food Basket Programme’ is a Ministry of Health initiative aimed at overcoming the problem of malnutrition among young children from hardcore poor households. It includes the provision of food supplements, nutrition assessment and monitoring of the target child, nutrition education and counselling of the parent or caregivers to ensure that the target child achieves and maintains satisfactory nutritional status. State Social Welfare Departments will identify the target child in each state.

Zakuan Zakaria – Ipoh City Council Secretary

Meanwhile, according to Ipoh City Council Secretary Zakuan Zakaria, several factors are involved. Based on research conducted by Ipoh City Council, Zakuan revealed that one of the factors is due to the increasing cost of living.

“The cost of living is increasing each day, and we’re aware of it, especially involving basic necessities such as food, education, and property which have diminished the purchasing power of Ipohites,” said Zakuan.

Zakuan added that another factor in creating the urban poor is the economic crisis, leading to inflation, retrenchment and unemployment. Added to this is the influx of foreign workers in Ipoh,” he added.

He said that the current situation in Ipoh is still under control as the number categorised as urban poor and hardcore poor is low in percentage terms compared to the population in Ipoh of about 700,000 people.

NGOs to the Rescue

Aid programmes by charity organisations are more than a refuge for the urban poor. Initiatives such as soup kitchens and free medical check-ups by charity groups have been platforms to empower the urban poor to stretch their earnings in Ipoh.

Pertubuhan Mempertinggi Akhlak (PMA) Chan Meng Khor

Pertubuhan Mempertinggi Akhlak (PMA) Chan Meng Khor is an NGO which was established in 1985 to provide financial support to genuine poor in Bercham and its surrounding community regardless of ethnicity.

It houses two charity clinics (Chinese traditional and western/modern medicine) and a kindergarten. Meanwhile, a PMA Chan Meng Khor – MAA Medicare charity dialysis centre was established in 2007 with a mission to make affordable dialysis treatment accessible to underprivileged Malaysians by subsidising the treatment cost.

Dr Cheng Wei Yee

Dr Cheng Wei Yee, who has been volunteering as the resident doctor at the modern medicine clinic and dialysis centre since August 2004 explained about his patients, “A lot of them are pensioners with no income at all. When they were younger, they did not have the financial planning for their golden age. When they couldn’t work anymore, their kids would have left them for greener pastures. Left alone with a little bit of allowance from their children, they get poorer as days go by as things are getting more expensive.”

“Made up of 90% elderly patients, some are in their 70s and still taking care of their parents who are in their 90s. Some are disabled while some have children who have run away from home,” Dr Cheng added. He treats about 40 patients in every two-hour session.

“Prevention begins with education on the importance of planning for your retirement. Your final pension may be enough for you in your 50s but the same amount will not be sufficient when you reach 60s, 70s and 80s. Now, the average lifespan for female is 87 while for male it’s 84. As we live longer, eventually you’ll become the urban poor if you don’t save enough money,” he highlighted.

Pertubuhan Mempertinggi Akhlak( PMA) Chan Meng Khor

Wong Fooi, the president of PMA Chan Meng Khor stated, “We need monetary donations and volunteers (with or without medical background) in order to help more people coming in as far as Sungai Siput, Simpang Pulai, Chemor and Cameron Highlands.” He has been volunteering here for 20 years.

“I’ve been coming here for five years now to treat my breathing difficulty and weak leg joints. It’s convenient as it’s located near my house. The clinic has lessened my financial burden. The volunteers are friendly and polite while the doctors are very attentive in examining patients,” 82-year-old Lam shared with Ipoh Echo. All you need is an IC for you to get free medical check-up and medicine.

The traditional medicine clinic opens every Sunday from 12pm to 2pm while the modern medicine clinic opens on the first Sunday of the month (12pm to 2pm) and second Thursday of the month (8pm to 9pm). There is also a charity wound clinic every third Sunday of the month from 11am to 1pm. There will be health talks and seminars occasionally.

Pertubuhan Mempertinggi Akhlak Chan Meng Khor is located at 10037, Lorong Bercham 1, Bercham, 31400 Ipoh. Readers who would like to contribute, volunteer or find out more, do call 05 542 1347.

Kechara Soup Kitchen

Justin Cheah, Kechara Soup Kitchen

Ipoh Echo also spoke to Justin Cheah, the project director of the Kechara Soup Kitchen that runs a food bank programme to serve the urban poor and underprivileged community in Ipoh.

Every day, the soup kitchen delivers fresh provisions and dry grocery collected from mainly Tesco and surplus food donors to welfare homes and poor families that are registered under the Kechara food bank. Besides Ipoh, the food bank also serves in Taiping, Bandar Seri Iskandar, Kampar, Manjung and others.

Kechara Soup Kitchen“Our recipients are of all ethnicities and are mostly breadwinners who are unable to work or with really low income,” the Kampar-born Justin, who has been volunteering for 10 years, said.

He defined urban poor as those who are unable to find a job or earn a lower income that doesn’t match the higher cost of living. “It can be due to inflation and influx of foreigners. Plus, there are people who cannot keep pace with society and thus are being left out. Then, they are also lacking in family planning,” he pointed out.

Kechara Soup Kitchen

According to him, urban poverty will lead to social issues such as illegal drug trade, robbery and a lack of access to education for the younger ones. “To address the issue, I would like to build the Ipoh food bank into a bigger one with more contributing partners to channel to the urban poor. It has to start with education too especially for those who drop out of school due to financial constraints,” he suggested.

“We need more volunteers to identify more poor people so that we can help,” he concluded. Those who would like to contribute (monetary or food) and volunteer, please call Yee Mun at 012 522 3200. Visit their Facebook page for more updates: Kechara Ipoh Study Group.

Love on the Streets

Love On The Streets, LOTS

Love On The Streets (LOTS) has been featured previously in Ipoh Echo and they are working together with Dapur Jalanan Ipoh (DJI) where they distribute secondhand clothes to the public.

“Most of our receivers, if it’s during DJI’s turn to serve, are senior citizens and less fortunate people,” said co-founder of LOTS, Mohd Hilmi Fadzil.

“We don’t ask about their background but we do have a few who would tell us stories about their lives. We have a mother who would bring two children of hers and choose clothes. She had to because according to her, clothes are getting expensive,” added Fadzil.

Aside from joining DJI’ session, LOTS also receives calls from orphanages and others who are in need of clothes, bags, bed sheets and more.

“We are currently in need of male clothing: long pants, kids’ attire, shoes and also bags. As for now, we don’t take any more ladies clothes especially baju kurung. All clothes donated will be inspected by our team members first before distribution,” he said.

Donations for LOTS can be made by contacting them through their Facebook page at

Love On The Streets, LOTS

Dapur Jalanan Ipoh (DJI)

The well-known DJI serve food and drinks for free on a bi-weekly service at Medan Selera Dato Sagor. Most of the recipients are senior citizens and also the urban poor community.

“We have many cases of families coming here with their children asking for more than just food. One that I remembered the most was, a family who came from Sitiawan. Both parents were terminated from their jobs and after years of trying, they came to Ipoh with their three children and asked if we could help out. We then directed this case to Anjung Singgah,” said one of the members DJI Zeti shuhaila Mustafa Kamal.

Under the Yayasan Kebajikan Negara (YKN), Anjung Singgah was created with the purpose to provide accommodation and food for the homeless. In Ipoh, Anjung Singgah was opened on January 9, this year and offers not only accommodation but also counselling services for the homeless.

According to state exco for Women, Family and Community Welfare Development, Housing and Local Government, Dato’ Rusnah Kassim, until April 10, there were about 50 men and 12 women who have sought help from the centre.

“The state is aware of the beggars and homeless problem in the city and Anjung Singgah is one of the many measures taken to help this community,” said Rusnah.

As for DJI, with the experience of operating more than three years, Zeti and her team are still trying to push for more, such as getting more cash funding and food donations.

“We do get enquiries from corporate companies who wanted to do their Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Programme with us but because we aren’t a registered NGO, that has made it harder for them to help. However, I am blessed and honoured that for all that we received we can still manage to cater to everyone who come seeking food,” said Zeti.

Readers who are interested to participate and join DJI can do so by visiting their Facebook page at for more information. Anjung Singgah in Ipoh is located at 12 Jalan Medan Istana, Bandar Ipoh Raya, 30000 Ipoh.

Shirdi Sai Baba Centre Meal Service

Located at 22 Jalan Sultan Iskandar, the centre is providing meals for anyone who needs them. The first meal, breakfast, is served at 7.30am until 10.30am and lunch will be served after their prayers which is after 12.15pm until 2pm. Dinner starts from 7pm until 9pm.

The centre has been practising this since 2010 and receives more than 80 receivers daily. The centre accepts anyone who needs food, regardless if they are homeless or urban poor.

“Everyone is welcome here. We won’t ask about your background or any other information. Just come here and enjoy the food,” said the representative of the centre Rathina Malar.

Shirdi Sai Baba Centre Meal Service

Lighthouse Hope Society (LHS)

Providing more than just free meals, the LHS was founded in 2006 by the Canning Garden Methodist Church where they also provide medical assistance to those in need. They also offer vocational training for the recipients in hope that they can return to mainstream society.

With strong support from the Welfare Department, Labour Department, Kuala Lumpur Kepong Berhad, Yayasan Teratai, the Sultan Azlan Shah Foundation and many other corporate and individuals donors, current president of LHS, Dr S.S. Gill hopes to help more urban poor and homeless in Ipoh.

Lighthouse Hope Society, LHS

“We also have dedicated teams who have been working hard to make all of these possible. For example, the ‘Vineyard Keepers’ help out with the cooking and clean the operation centre. Then there are the medical doctors, hairdressers and meal servers,” he said.

The centre is located at 4 Jalan Koo Chong Kong in Old Town and is open every day of the week. They also have pre-loved clothes and welcome anyone who wish to be the volunteers.

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