HYDERABAD: Over the Sankranti holidays late last week, Hyderabad’s night shelters were packed to the rafters with homeless people huddling together as the mercury dipped to 8.4 degrees Celsius.
At any given time, there are no less than 10,000 homeless people in the city.
And the number of night shelters? Four, with capacity to shelter 160.
Where in this would-be metropolis do you go when the elements get bitter with you? For most homeless people, the only places where one can last out bitter cold or driving rain is the underside of flyovers, the platforms of bus and railway stations -- if the police are kind that night.
Currently, the GHMC owns but four night shelters -- one for each zone: near Bible House, Secunderabad (North Zone), near Gandhi Statue at Uppal (East Zone), Rajendra Nagar (West Zone) and at Bapujinagar, S R Nagar (Central Zone).
The match box-sized premises are owned by GHMC but the management is by NGOs.
On the night before Sankranti, as the temperature dropped to 8.4 degrees Celsius, the homeless flocked to these shelters like pigeons staying out of the rain.
The regulars used up the capacity while those who were driven there by the chill huddled out in the open, waiting for the morning sun.
“We have space for only 50”, said K Anuradha of Aman Vedika, the NGO that runs the shelter near Bible House.
“But we took in 70. There were dozens more outside.” So the children above six were sent to rainbow homes (shelter homes for children) while the remaining adjusted along the corridor, in the kitchen, wherever there was a suare foot of space.
“Because of the biting winter, more people on the streets are getting to know of night shelters, so it is likely that these numbers will swell,” said Arunmayi of the Campaign for Citizen Shelter Network.
While the homeless shiver, the GHMC has clearly been dozing.
It is under a fiat by the Supreme Court to build no less than 57 night shelters by Dec 31 of last year.
In the leadup to that deadline, the civic utility pared that number down to 23.
Having overshot that deadline, it has now cut its pledge to 11 new shelters.
New deadline: a month from now.