Mumbai: Citizen experts come together for construction of night shelters

Updated: Nov 27, 2017, 08:55 IST | Laxman Singh

Citizen experts, organisations come together at a public hearing to highlight lack of progress in construction of night shelters, demand immediate implementation of SC guidelines issued for the same

Making a note of zero progress in setting up enough night shelters and addressing the problems faced by city's homeless, citizen experts and groups working for the rights of homeless have demanded immediate implementation of guidelines given by Supreme Court in the matter.

BMC's night shelter in Bandra West for the homeless. File pic
BMC's night shelter in Bandra West for the homeless. File pic

Last Friday, 'Homeless Collective', a group of organisations Pehchan, Actionoid and Yuva, held a public hearing to draw the state's attention to the need for invoking SC's order on 'Shelter for the Urban Homeless'.

Anyone 'hearing'?
Senior advocate and activist Abha Singh highlighted non-recognition of the homeless in any of the government schemes. "Under the SRA, slum dwellers get new and bigger homes, but those living on the streets and footpaths for decades are still there, in the same condition," she said, adding, "South Mumbai has houses where an entire floor is occupied by just one person, but there are hardly any shelters for the homeless."

She urged women who had faced harassment to lodge complaints with the state women and child commission and the police. About 300 homeless were also present at the hearing, where they shared their experiences, with many alleging that the police and BMC officials detained or evicted them from footpaths under the Bombay (Prevention) of Begging Act, 1959.

Speaking about the slow progress of construction of shelters and problems faced by homeless women and kids, Brijesh Arya of Homeless Collective said, "Mumbai is woefully behind in having the required number of homes. Recently, the SC-appointed committee for the same had even slammed the civic body for inadequate number of shelters and poor condition of the existing ones.

"The idea behind the hearing was to involve all agencies concerned. We had invited the police and BMC, so that the homeless could tell them their problems, but not one of them came."

Future tense
During the hearing, it also came to light that due to frequent evictions and harassment, the education of children from the community was affected, making it difficult for them to attend school on a regular basis. The community's children and women also faced a constant threat, with many bringing to fore concerns of sexual exploitation and abuse, illegal arrests under the Begging Act, and children being picked up.

After listening to the issues, Laxman Mankar from the Women and Child Development Commission promised to take up all the complaints with the authorities concerned. "I will ensure safety and dignity of women by working with government officials and local authorities," he said.

Number game
Mumbai has nine shelter homes with a capacity for 412, as against the total homeless population of 57,417, as per the 2011 census. As per SC's order and guidelines of the National Urban Livelihood Mission-Scheme for Urban Homeless (NULM-SUH), there should be one shelter home per a lakh people. By this calculation, Mumbai with a population of 1.25 crore needs at least 125 night shelters.

However, Gajanan Jagate, state mission manager, NULM-SUH, said, "Lack of manpower to execute the scheme was the reason behind delay in the construction of new and better shelter homes. We have several upcoming programmes and projects from the government for the welfare of the city's homeless."

Milind Bhalerao from NULM-Mumbai said, "We are in the process of building 13 centres for children and two centres for women; the total number of shelters in the city would go up to 29 by the end of the year." And for an immediate solution, he added, temporary shelters, SHGs and small loans could be made available through the NULM-SUH.


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Court check
A three-member committee headed by retired Delhi High Court justice Kailash Gambhir had visited the state in April and submitted its report before the SC in May for compliance. mid-day had been the first to report about the committee's visit and detailed report (April 10 and August 8), which gave critical observations and slammed state's poor efforts to create facilities for the urban homeless.

The world over
As per reports, in 2016, England had more than 2.50 lakh homeless with most in London. All of the shelter homes there are equipped with all basic facilities. Berlin in Germany and New York and California in USA have some of the best shelter homes for the homeless.

How many the homes can fit
>> 70 in Khetwadi
>> 70 near Wankhede Stadium
>> 61 in Andheri West
>> 60 in Malad East
>> 30 in Kamathipura
>> 14 in Borivli East
>> 12 in Bandra West
>> 3 in Matunga

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