Crowded, Damp, Dirty: Shelters For Homeless Offer Little Beyond A Roof

Most of the homeless are struggling with multiple problems like drinking, substance abuse, unemployment and psychological disturbances.

Delhi/Gurugram: As temperature dips below 3 degrees, for the homeless in Delhi-NCR, sleeping in the winter nights is getting tougher by the day. To take stock of the situation on the ground, NDTV did a reality check of the night shelters in Delhi and Gurugram and unearthed some startling facts.

For 27-year-old Rajkumar, a migrant from Rajasthan, a temporary portable night shelter near Gurgaon Railway Station is ‘home’ for the night. Rajkumar says that he has come to Gurugram in search of a job and with not much money at his disposal and a problem with his right leg, he decided to stay at the closest shelter.

The shelter, built by the Municipal Corporation of Gurgaon, is guarded by Joginder Singh. He says, “People come here from Rewari, Mahendragarh, Rohtak and we offer the shelter to all those who are not locals of Gurugram.”

The portable cabin, having a capacity of 12, is one of eight new night shelters set up by the corporation in the wake of cold wave. The other shelters at IFFCO Chowk, Basai Chowk, Dundaheda, Khandsa Chowk, Shankar Chowk, Sector 56 and Sikandarpur Metro station have been stocked up to cater to the high number of homeless migrants.

According to official figures, existing facilities in Gurugram can shelter less than a third of the city’s estimated homeless population.

The real picture, however, is not so rosy. Mr Joginder said, “The ground is so cold that the moisture often seeps into the mattress and despite the shelter being in place for over a month, no provision for a functional toilet has been made so far.”

Ajmer Singh, caretaker-cum-guard at the Bhim Nagar night shelter, one of the three permanent shelters of Gurugram, informed that 60 men who occupy this shelter are struggling with multiple problems like drinking, substance abuse, unemployment and psychological disturbances.

“Many of us migrants don’t have ready access to our ID cards. The other day, a man barged in, asked us for our ID cards, and when we denied having any, he slapped, shoved and beat us all up threatening dire consequences,” said Mahender, one of the occupants, who hails from Bihar.

Banoj Yadav, another occupant, however, disagreed. “This is a place where people were accommodated when they didn’t have a place to stay outside in the cold. At least we get a bedding, mattress, quilt and some space for us.”

Aman Biradri night shelter in Delhi’s ISBT area is one of the 263 shelters provided by the state government for an estimated 2 lakh homeless people in the capital.

“The number of occupants here has doubled from 80 to 160 in the first week of January alone”, said Rakesh Kumar, the in-charge of the shelter. “Earlier it used to function primarily as a night shelter, but now people have started using it extensively during the day too due to the cold”, he added.

Delhi has 236 night shelters but are unable to cater to the number of homeless and they who are forced to sleep on the roads.

Mansingh, an occupant of the shelter informed that a car ferries the homeless who sleep on the roads and bring them the shelter, “But the truth is, a lot of homeless people don’t want to live in the night shelters, despite the cold as on the pavement, they know that someone will give them a blanket, which they can sell to earn a pittance.

According to official figures, existing facilities in Gurugram can shelter less than a third of the city’s estimated homeless population, while in Delhi the number of homeless far outstrips the capacity of the existing shelters.

The Supreme Court, in an order passed last month, formed a panel to look into the monitoring of the shelters and has also pressed the centre and states to ensure adequate shelters are in place for the homeless.

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