CHENNAI: As avoiding outdoor spaces remains one of the most difficult practices during the pandemic, for those living inside government shelter homes, the experience turned out to be a nightmare. In the initial months, fights would break out inside the homes and those with mental health issues would feel even more depressed.
However, in June, the wing for homeless department in the city corporation began working out a solution -- installation of televisions, organising recreational activities and starting kitchen gardens. The officials say this has reaped great results.
Currently, there are 53 government shelter homes that house homeless people in the city. Of this, 13 are special shelters. Special shelters are established to house the caretakers of hospital inmates. Findings of a study conducted by the civic body show that more than 12,000 people, including children are homeless.
“Previously, there were televisions only in residences.
Post lockdown, we have installed televisions in special shelters too as many will stay back. In all homes, we started recreational activities like carom and other indoor games. In children’s shelter homes, we started conducting storytelling competitions,” said a city corporation official. Since past three month, the department has also started setting up kitchen gardens. Different vegetables sown in more than 20 such gardens include brinjal, tomato, ladies finger, radish and butter beans among others.
“Initially the children used to get scared even though we provided them with kabasura kudineer, sanitisers and masks. But after the kitchen garden was set up, we witnessed difference. While kids were isolating themselves in fear earlier, now all of them come together. We also had singing and dance classes and kept a golu, this navratri. It was all for their mental wellbeing and we are extremely happy to see the results,” said Sri Priya, in-charge of the Nandavanam shelter home.
Concurring, Victoria from another shelter home said, quarrels too have reduced by a great extent. “During lockdown, inmates were doing everything they could to go outside. It was very difficult to keep them inside. When we would stop them, they would get violent due to the frustration and claustrophobia. Once television sets were installed, fights had magically stopped. They started liking staying indoors and psychiatrists assured that their mental health condition is stabler,” she said.