JOHOR BARU: They sleep by the roadside or on public benches, bathe in public toilets and sometimes, go hungry just to save some money.
This is the harsh reality faced by hundreds of Malaysians working in Singapore, who had to live like vagrants following the Covid-19 pandemic which saw the closure of the Malaysia-Singapore border.
Among others, the high cost of living in the republic coupled with pay cuts by their employers had led them to resort to drastic measures to save every sen possible.
Shahruddin Haeal Helmy Mohd Noh, 34, who works at a beverage company in Singapore, said over 100 Malaysians there had become homeless, as they could not afford to rent a room or a bed.
Shahruddin said with an average monthly income between S$800 (RM2,441) and S$1,400 (RM4,271), many could not afford to rent a bed priced between S$300 (RM915) and S$500 (RM1,525) per month, or let alone a room with rent hovering between S$700 (RM2,135) and S$1,200 (RM3,660).
"The amount does not include daily spending on food at about S$20 (RM61) and transportation between S$3 (RM9) and S$4 (RM12) per trip.
"Some of us only left with S$100 (RM304) to last for a month, after sending about S$700 (RM2,134) for families in Malaysia and S$300 (RM915) for bed rental."
He said to save money, many of them would only have instant noodles for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
"During my free time, I will look for unsold bread from the bread truck to give to my homeless friends," he said when contacted.
Shahruddin said he had also been active in a charity project run by a Singaporean couple since Ramadan.
He said most Malaysians in Singapore had opted to stay as they were the sole breadwinners in their families. "If they return to Malaysia, they might face difficulties to find jobs during this difficult time. How are they going to support their families then?" he said. Sharuddin who had been working in Singapore for six years said returning to Malaysia was not the best option at the moment.
"They will need to undergo screening and pay for the 14-day mandatory quarantine in Malaysia. I was told that we need to pay RM2,200 for both quarantine accommodation and testing for Covid-19.
"Not only they would have to quit their jobs (as per regulations by some employers), they will need to fork out a lot of money for the quarantine and testing. So, they choose to stay.
He said the problem could only be resolved if the Johor Baru-Singapore borders were reopen for the daily commute.
"They will then have a place to stay and money to earn." He said those earning above $1,500 (RM4,575) were also affected by cost of petrol, vehicle entry permit (VEP) at S$4 (RM12) daily, among others.
Shahruddin said most family members of the homeless Malaysian workers were not aware of the situation.
"They are keeping mum to allay worry among their families back home. These people are willing to work hard and go hungry for their families."