Homeless brave chill as mercury dips in Bengaluru

Homeless brave chill as mercury dips in Bengaluru

Survey of homeless people, at Kalasipalya in Bengaluru on Wednesday. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

For years, dilapidated bus shelters and dusty footpaths had become home during the night for 75-year-old Shankarappa, who works as a watchman in Rajajinagar.

But the fast plummeting mercury levels this winter has made his nights more traumatic. Fighting in vain against the severe cold, Shankarappa is one among several thousand destitutes across Bengaluru who have no access to shelter and are currently being surveyed by the volunteers of Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP).

Selecting more than 1,500 homes in the West Zone and rehabilitating them at BBMP-run shelter homes, the volunteers are searching for destitutes in South Zone. While their numbers continue to swell, with every passing day, the shelter homes are under tremendous pressure to accommodate them.

DH did a reality check of various shelter homes across Bengaluru and found that while a few lacked basic facilities, a few others were on a par with the modern facilities.

The shelter home in Rajajinagar lacks some basic facilities like water and toilet, besides hygiene. With no toilet facility at the shelter, the occupants have to rely on the public toilet located close to the building.

Anand Murthy, a warden at one of the homes, said, “The pumping motor was damaged about two weeks ago. But we have been providing the inmates with other facilities.” While the home can accommodate 15 people, the BBMP had identified over 1,500 people, raising the question where will they all be accommodated?

Similarly, the shelter home at Dasarahalli offers accommodation only for men while women and children are housed in a small room.

“We provide mattress, bed sheets besides the meals. There are 25 beds at the shelter. The people we get are predominantly migrant labourers. While they go in search of jobs during the day, night they will be back,” said Puttaraju, the caretaker. Interestingly, none of the shelter homes in these zones provide inhabitants with hot water in the winter. But the shelter home at Murphy Town stands out from others. With separate facility for men and women, the shelter functions from two floors. “The shelter can accommodate 20 women and 15 men. We provide them with meals three times a day unlike in other places where meals are served only during the night. As the occupants are senior citizens, we do conduct medical camps at regular intervals,” said Daisy, caretaker of the shelter home.

Regardless of the facilities, the limited number of shelters has left the BBMP authorities worried. “As per the guidelines under Deendayal National Urban Livelihood Mission, the cities must have one night shelter for every 1 lakh population. Going by the standards, even if we accommodate 50 destitute in each of the shelter, we require 100 shelters in Bengaluru,” he said. At present, the six shelters run by BBMP in assistance with NGOs can accommodate only 175 destitute in six locations.

Admitting to the shortage of night shelters across Bengaluru, a top BBMP official told DH that they have been making arrangements to overcome the shortage.

“We have already identified government properties in West, South and East zones. Two shelters will come up in each of the zones and works are going on in full swing,” the official clarified.

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