Thousands brave wintry nights on Delhi's footpaths as shelter homes lack facilities 

Scores of homeless people are forced to spend wintry nights on footpaths beneath the flyovers, bus shelters or subways in the city.

Published: 16th January 2022 06:44 PM  |   Last Updated: 16th January 2022 06:44 PM   |  A+A-

New Delhi: The homeless rest inside a night shelter on a cold winter morning, in New Delhi, Sunday, Jan 16, 2022. (PTI Photo/Kamal Kishore)


NEW DELHI: Mukesh Sahoo (40), a rickshaw puller hailing from Odisha, lives in the market corridors of Fatehpuri and Chandni Chowk, braving extreme winter.

To protect himself from the harsh cold weather conditions at night, he often resorts to bonfire but cannot avail lodging at the nearby shelter home in Chandni Chowk due to space crunch there.

"Earlier, I used to sleep there but since the last winter, I am unable to get space because the capacity of the shelter home has been reduced to ensure social distancing," Sahoo told PTI.

Scores of homeless people are forced to spend wintry nights on footpaths beneath the flyovers, bus shelters or subways in the city.

"I fear sleeping on the footpath during these wintry nights because of the cold winds. Shelter homes either lack space or are in bad shape. Toilets and other facilities at the nearby shelter home are not adequately managed," Ahmad Ali, a daily wage labourer from Samastipur in Bihar, who sleeps underneath a flyover at Kashmere Gate ISBT, lamented.

According to a government survey conducted in 2014, the national capital has over 16,000 homeless people. However, several NGOs working on the subject claim the number to be around one lakh. Government authorities, however, said ample arrangements have been made.

An official of the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, the agency that looks after government shelter homes in the city, said there are 209 permanent and 216 makeshift shelter homes in the national capital.

"With 425 shelter homes across the city, we can accommodate nearly 21,000 homeless people. But due to COVID-19, the revised cumulative capacity is around 10,500 people," the official told PTI, requesting anonymity.

He said the government is providing all necessary facilities such as lodging and food to ensure that they do not face any problem.  The city government has been providing free food to the homeless since the outbreak of the pandemic in March 2020.

"We also have dedicated teams who pick homeless people from streets and rehabilitate them in night shelters in different parts of the city," the official said.

Centre for Holistic Development, executive director, Sunil Kumar Aledia, said thousands of people are forced to spend their nights on streets due to lack of space and facilities at shelter homes.

"We estimate that there are around one lakh homeless people in Delhi. The government-run shelter homes not only lack space but also facilities such as toilets," he said.


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