A right place at night

A temporary night shelter for shelterless is nothing but providing shelter to 20 destitutes in Mangalore city, writes Naina J A 

The poor shelterless taking rest at night shelter near Sharavu temple in Mangalore. Hundreds of homeless or shelterless people are exposed to hostile elements of weather in the absence of government-run night shelters.


After a day’s work, these homeless people, most of whom are daily wage earners, seek shelter against the biting cold and rain by huddling under tarpaulin sheets under flyovers, bus-stops and awnings of shops. This is mostly prevalent in Mangalore and the other cities across the State.

To address their needs, on the direction of the supreme court, the Karnataka Government had decided to conduct a survey of the shelterless in the city corporations in the State - Bangalore, Mysore, Hubli-Dharwad, Gulbarga, Shimoga, Mangalore, Bellary, and Belgaum.

Adhering to a Supreme Court order, Mangalore City Corporation has set up a temporary night shelter to accommodate homeless people, providing succour to at least 20 homeless people.

The shelter is supposed to remain open at night so that homeless people would have a place to sleep. The temporary shelter for the shelterless was inaugurated on September 22, 2011, to provide shelter to shelterless in the city and handed it over to Sameeksha Trust to manage. If city corporation was magnanimous in providing shelter to night shelter less in the city; the latter too have reciprocated the corporation’s largesse with equal measure. There are 20 shelterless who stay in this night shelter situated near Sharavu Temple in Mangalore.

Speaking to City Herald, Sameeksha Trust Managing Trustee Reshma Ullal said the building consists of two small rooms with an attached toilet. There are 10 bunk beds, which can accommodate 20 people. When the centre was inaugurated, there were five people in the room. All of them used to spend their night either on the roads or in bus stands. Now all the beds are full. “We conduct survey once in every 15 days to find out number of shleterless in the city, and report it to the authorities. Few of them who come here return to their native after few days,” she says. They used to spend the night at the bus stand in State Bank or Bunder area. During the day, they would work at construction sites and take bag of clothes wherever they went. The two rooms in the shelter has been provided with TV and locker facility for each to keep their belongings.

It will be opened from 6.30 pm till morning. If anyone is sick, they will be provided with medical facility. Reshma says, “we conduct medical check up every month to test Malaria, Filaria and others. Now we are planning to go for HIV test as well in the future. If there was any HIV infected, then he can be rehabilitated.”

A man who was given shelter at the night shelter was a drunkard who used to come to the shelter drinking. We counselled him and later, he stopped drinking, she says with pride. Kumar (name changed) from Shimoga says, “I have been staying here for the last 15 days. It is good that the authorities have provided shelter for the shelterless. Now I can keep all my belongings here without any tension and come back in the evening and take rest. I work in construction site. The bathoorms and toilets are clean. I do not have any worry over my stay.  We are given medical help if we fall sick. We stay in the night and go to work by 6.30 am.”  


His friend Ramanna (name changed) from Hubli said “I was told by Kumar on the facility and I came here a week ago.” The shelter idea is godsend for people like us. We used to sleep at railway station, bus stand or some place. But the danger was that police or authorities used to wake up us at midnight and chase us. At least we will have a good night’s sleep and will be in a better mind when we leave for work,” said Sreenivas (name changed).
 
Reshma says, “I have asked the MCC to give us an old unused building to accommodate atleast 50 persons.” In fact, the corporation official during the inauguration of the shelter had said that the Corporation has ambitious plans to provide shelter. They had said that the Corporation had sent a Rs 1.4 crore proposal to construct a shelter for 200 persons (both men and women) at Padavu. There is another proposal of Rs 1.90 crore to construct another shelter at Bunder. In the meantime, an NGO named Action Aid designated by the Court to look into the condition of night shelter had submitted a report stating that night shelter in Mangalore is the most hygienic shelter in the State. It was announced in a meeting of City Corporation Commissioners recently.

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