Situation worsens for Delhi's homeless amid harsh winters, Covid surge
Night shelters have no space, more than 1,50,000 persons live on pavements and in parks
NEW DELHI: A large number of homeless continue to sleep out in the open, cold and wet in this harsh weather, as most rain baseras (night shelters) in the city remain full to capacity even as Covid-19 cases, with its highly transmissible Omicron variant, are on the rise.
Kavita Devi (65), who has been living at one such night shelter at southeast Delhi’s Sarai Kale Khan for the past eight months, said, “Winter is harsh. Even though in the shelter we got a roof to keep the cold away, there are many other problems. Despite many mobile toilets being there in the vicinity, some are dysfunctional or locked and hence there is a long queue before one can relieve oneself, especially for women it’s a serious problem. Then there is no provision for hot water.”
According to government figures, there are more than 1,50,000 homeless people in the national capital, living on pavements, under the flyover, in parks, stations, in front of hospitals, and public spaces. Sumit Mehta (26), a caretaker at one of the shelters near AIIMS, said, “We provide them with blankets and food twice a day. There are people in this shelter who are here because their family members are getting treated in nearby hospitals.”
“The food is provided to us by Akshapatra Mandir affiliated to Delhi government,” said Kamlesh, a caretaker. There are 10 shelters in total at AIIMS which includes a shelter with the most number of beds called the hanger.“The hanger has 54 beds and people here have come to get cured of their diseases like
cancer or to get a plastic surgery,” said Shivam, another caretaker.
Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA), a campaign that addresses the problem of homeless in Delhi, and believes that it is a fundamental right of every citizen to have a home, food, and clothing. Sumit Mehta of AAA said, “We are providing free masks and sanitizers to all the people in shelters.”
“The biggest problem people are facing in covid time is that they are not going out for their earning. There is a separate hall for the people who are going through any health issues, there are overall 58 people in this shelter home,” said Radha, caretaker of Shahri Adhikar Manch.