Night shelters can cater to only 15 per cent of homeless: Activists

Rights groups fighting for homeless and housing rights are going to contest the government’s statement in its recent affidavit where it has been written that existing 150 night shelters — housing over 7,500 homeless — are “reasonably adequate” during the next High Court hearing.

“If the city has nearly 1.5 lakh homeless, how are the existing shelters adequate? Even if we go by the government estimate of 65,000 homeless, it accounts for only 15 per cent of the homeless population. What about the rest?” said Indu Prakash from Indo-Global Social Service Society.

The Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board had submitted its status report in the High Court on November 19 on the issue of permanent and temporary shelters in Delhi and in compliance with the court’s October 19 order. According to Delhi’s master plan for 2021, one permanent night shelter per one lakh population is mandatory.

In their affidavit, DUSIB has submitted that Delhi Development Authority was requested to allot more lands for shelters to meet the master plan’s criteria for construction of night shelters. Lands at Pocket IFC in Narela, Avantika in Rohini and sector 22 in Rohini have been allotted by the DDA, where work is likely to begin soon.
“DDA has been requested further to provide more land to DUSIB for complete compliance of the High Court order,” reads the affidavit.

DUSIB further informed that a shelter with a capacity of 100 people at Mangolpuri, three storey buildings at Raja Garden, Molar Bund Phase 1 Gautampuri and Nangloi are under consideration at present. Also, HUDCO has offered to build a 588sqmt at August Kranti Bhawan in Bikaji Kama Place as a permanent night shelter.

However, activists argued that the number of night shelters should be need-based and area-wise as uniform distribution of shelters do not serve the real purpose.

“Having shelters in far off places like Narela and Rohini will not solve the purpose. A person who is working in central Delhi will not travel such distance to get to these shelters because he will neither have the means nor money to get there. Areas like railway stations, bus terminals, old Delhi, market places, hospitals and others need shelters,” said Prakash.

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