'Shelter homes remain unoccupied'

NGOs disagree with DUSIB claim, say not enough space for homeless

As the nights get colder in the capital, NGOs are at loggerheads with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board over availability of space in night shelters for the homeless.

NGOs say shelter homes do not have enough capacity to accommodate the homeless, whereas the DUSIB says most of them go unoccupied every night.

The issue came to the fore when Shahri Adhikar Manch: Begharon Ke Saath asked DUSIB for additional night shelters in some areas to accommodate the homeless. According to DUSIB there are some 175 night shelters that can accommodate over 14,000 homeless. “But occupancy is very low,” DUSIB CEO Amar Nath told Deccan Herald.

The NGO has made a tabulated chart that shows the DUSIB’s figure is exaggerated. “The DUSIB is presenting 100 per cent bloated figure,” said Indu Prakash Singh, member of the NGO.Earlier this month, the DUSIB submitted an affidavit in the Delhi High Court showing that night shelters in 33 areas in the city can accommodate 3,560 homeless, the NGO said. But in reality, shelters in these areas can accommodate only 1,715 people, the NGO added.

When asked about the variation in the capacity of the shelter homes, Nath said, “It’s their (NGO’s) opinion. But our calculation is based on site visits and how much space is available inside the shelters.”

However, the NGO and DUSIB agreed on the reason for low occupancy. 

“One of the reasons is that the shelters are located at far-flung areas. And many homeless live on the streets with their families. So they don’t want to let go of the  space,” Nath said.Singh echoed similar concerns. “I agree that night shelters are not very approachable. But there are a lot more homeless people living on the streets than the shelters can accommodate,” Singh said.

According to NGOs, there are over 1.5 lakh homeless in the city.

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