Poor hygiene, lack of basic facilities such as drinking water, and blistering heat in portable cabins are some reasons why the city’s homeless prefer pavements to night shelters in Delhi.
While many die in the heat wave, the threat of getting crushed by vehicles always looms large for the 20,000 homeless persons in the city.
Although in winter the occupancy reach to 17,000, in the past few days, the capacity of Delhi’s night shelters has been below 5,000.
“They have a winter action plan but there is no summer action plan. At many shelters, there are no fans or coolers. Why would they want to stay in a shelter? The porta cabin starts heating from 7 am and remains hot throughout the night. That is why homeless prefer to sleep on pavements in open air and often get killed in accident,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia, who runs an NGO for homeless — Centre for Holistic Development.
At around 5.45 am on Thursday, one man was killed and three people suffered injuries when they were run over by a speeding car. They were sleeping on a pavement near Kashmere Gate.
“We have a cooler in every shelter and also provide drinking water, but some homeless prefer to stay outside the shelter. We cannot force anyone. We are also purchasing 125 more coolers so that at some shelters, extra coolers can be placed,” said an official of Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB), which manages the night shelter.
There are 201 night shelters in Delhi, of which, 115 are in porta cabins, 83 are in concrete buildings and three are in tents. The total capacity of these shelters is 16,979 but on an average around 2,000 homeless people stay in these shelters during daytime and around 5,000 during the night.
“There is no proper protection in the shelters and caretakers do not behave well with us. In most of the shelters, there is a bully who beat others and even extorts money. That is why, it is better to sleep on the road than in the shelters,” said Shivam, a daily wage labourer.