SAMBALPUR: The shelters for urban homeless (SUH) in Sambalpur city continue to remain unutilised even as the poor are forced to spend nights under the cold winter sky without being aware of existence of the facilities.
Until last year, the city had only one night shelter at the district headquarters hospital, which was meant for attendants of patients. Three more SUHs at Badabazar, Hirakud and Burla, were built this year and are ready for use. The facility at Badabazar has the capacity to accommodate 100 people and the ones at Burla and Hirakud can provide shelter to 50 persons each.
The shelters were used as quarantine centres during lockdown. With arrival of winter, they were vacated for use by the homeless. However, the beneficiaries are unable to use them for sheer failure of the civic administration in making them aware about the shelters.
Sidhant Bohidar, a resident of Fatak said, ‘’In these chilly nights, rickshaw pullers and daily wagers are being forced to sleep on porches in front of closed shops. Besides, a large number of beggars, rag pickers and labourers sleep on platforms of the railway station. I talked to a few of them and asked them to shift to the SUHs but they said they are unaware of any such facility. The civic body must take steps to shift them to the shelters,” he said.
As per the 2011 census, the city had 602 homeless persons and the number has gone up manifold in the recent years. Deputy commissioner of Sambalpur Municipal Corporation Rabindra Kumar Patel said, the three new SUHs are functional and are equipped with adequate number of beds, blankets, drinking water and toilets. Besides, an attendant has been deployed at each centre.
He said the civic body has been urging the homeless to utilise the facilities but the latter are hesitant as they feel the places where the homes are located are isolated. A few of them are used to staying in the open. Patel said the civic body has talked to a few NGOs and social organisations to convince the homeless to shift to the SUHs.