Lauding the Delhi Government’s decision to provide better shelters for the homeless, NGOs say it is a step in the right direction, but much more needs to be done, like helping them become self-reliant, providing proper sanitation and opening alcohol and drug de-addiction centres.

NGOs in the city are welcoming the government’s recent initiative to replace all night shelters being run from plastic tents with porta cabins and increasing their numbers.

However, they say that the problem of shelter is not just during winters but a year-long affair.

Paramjeet Kaur, executive director of NGO Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan, says: “We welcome Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal’s decision, but there should be consolidated programmes which, apart from providing basic facilities like food and roof, also give them livelihood opportunities to make them independent”.

In the paucity of shelter homes, scores of homeless people spend their nights out on footpaths, under flyovers, on road pavements, outside hospitals and even in public toilets.

The Delhi Government’s Human Development Report-2010 states that there are 56,000 homeless people, but, as per the NGOs working in this field, the figure is estimated to be over one lakh.

Ms. Kaur says most homeless people are from Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Jharkhand.

“These migrated people mostly are considered a burden on infrastructure and utilities and seen as encroachers, so there is a need to change the mind-set,” she says.

Being destitute hits women, children and the elderly the most as they are often the most exploited ones, Ms. Kaur says, citing a survey by her NGO.

The elderly rejected by their families are forced to live on the streets and beg for a living.

“Further, poor health, police atrocities, exploitation, lack of facilities are the various problems which the homeless face,” she said, adding that the issue of homeless people is a perennial one and there should be separate institutes for the elderly and the differently-abled.

Dr. Amod Kumar of NGO Mother says there is no data of deaths of homeless people as the police registers them among unidentified or unclaimed bodies.

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