These precious oasis and spaces are much sought after by the homeless in the city who proudly call it their home

The rooms are airy and the view spectacular. But this piece of real estate isn’t for sale!

Living in her sari draped one-room accommodation under the All India Institute of Medical Sciences (AIIMS) flyover, Yasodha is proud of her ‘home’ and claims that she is lucky to have a ‘residence’ in Delhi.

Not sure of her age or exactly when she shifted to her ‘new home’, Yasodha claimed she was previously living at the Safdarjung Hospital complex.

“But this flyover has come as a blessing. I stay here alone with my three dogs for company. The people around here sometimes steal my money and even take and drink the water I collect for drinking from the nearby hospitals,” Yasodha said.

She revealed she gets beaten up sometimes. “But the flyover gives me protection from the rains and is a good home for the Delhi winters,” said Yasodha, busy cleaning the already neat and clean accommodation. Her ambition now is to see her bitter gourd plant (that she has planted in a flower pot) bear fruit.

Yasodha said she has been on the roads for the past 15 years. “Almost every day women come to me for help and ask if they could stay with me for a night. I almost always have someone sharing my accommodation,” she said.

Yasodha washes and bathes at the nearby public toilet. “My husband comes whenever he needs money. I never hear from him otherwise,” she said, adding that she can’t remember which part of the country she is from.

“I am from Bharat” is her refrain when asked about her hometown. In the Capital, Yasodha is among that several thousand men, women and children who use the city’s flyovers and spaces underneath the elevated metro lines to build ‘homes’.

These precious oasis and spaces are much sought after by the homeless in the city. “The popular sites (safe areas where money can be made by begging or selling small items) are many,” confided Rajesh, who carries on his work at the Moti Bagh flyover.

“A lot of these spaces are used by people working on the roads (begging or selling small items). We live here and work at the Moti Bagh road. We can make anywhere from Rs. 500 upwards on a good day. Families and children stay here and there are lots of people from Rajasthan and Bihar,” he said. The spaces under flyovers and elevated metro lines are also used by rickshaw pullers, ice-cream vendors and hawkers to sleep at night.

But not all is well on the roads with violence and abuse being rampant. “It is worst for the children and women,” admitted Rajesh.

Save the Children had done a census of street children in Delhi along with the Institute for Human Development two years ago. The census of street children in Delhi had covered all districts of the State and considered three categories of children for enumeration.

The first were children living on the streets who had run away from their families and lived alone. The second were working children on the streets who spent most of their time on the streets but returned home on a regular basis. The last category was of children from street families who lived on the streets with their families.

“There are at least 50,923 street children in Delhi,” the study said.

“This number has definitely grown,” said Sanjay Gupta of CHETNA, a non-government organisation working with street children. He said children when `mixed’ with the adult population are exposed to drugs and various other ills.

“Delhi also has several children living alone and they often are seen to be living in small clusters near their area of work. Several of them use these flyovers and metro lines as a place to seek shelter at night,” he added.

Dr. Amod Kumar, head of community medicine, St. Stephen’s Hospital said: “The State Government is working to help those living on the streets. However, this is a complex problem which needs a solution. While a lot is being done, we admit that much more is needed, especially for women and children.”

For anyone who wants to help the abandoned and helpless on the streets can call the helpline: +91-98683-99222 or email: homelessdelhi@gmail.com.

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