Apex court has asked States to provide adequate facilities

B.Neelavathi (80) had been struggling for food for a week. She stays at the Chennai Corporation's night shelter in Thattankulam, near Pulianthope. “There is no rice here. We do not know what to do,” she said.

The services of the night shelter with sambar rice and rasam and a secure atmosphere have been a boon for her in old age as she has no family. Over 38 persons without a home are enrolled at the night shelter. The food was supplied last by the civic body on December 4, said Anandi, the cook at the night shelter.

Even as the Supreme Court on Monday directed States, including Tamil Nadu, to ensure that adequate shelters were provided for night stay, many of the existing night shelters in the city are facing such challenges. The Supreme Court also expressed the concern that most States were yet to provide adequate night shelters, and asked the Chief Secretaries to monitor the provision of night shelters and file a comprehensive report by January 3.

According to civic body officials, night shelters have been set up in the city in Thattankulam, Kannappar Thidal, Iyyappa Nagar, Cox Colony, Appavoo Nagar, Kodungaiyur, Tondiarpet, Periamet, Old Chamiers Road, Teeds Garden, Dooming Kuppam and Raja Rathinam Nagar.

According to Supreme Court norms, one shelter has to be provided for one lakh population in a city.

Many of the night shelters in the city have fewer people now, said B.Balasundar of Citizens Rights Forum. “There should be community participation with adequate government support. Selection of the right location for construction of a night shelter also plays a role in optimum utilisation of the facility,” he added. F.Yasodha, of Kannappar Thidal family night shelter, said that basic needs were yet to be addressed in the shelter.

“We were removed from the pavement near Ripon Buildings by corporation officials on assurance that we would be given houses in three days. Then they took us to the family night shelter. Families here have been waiting for allotment of houses for the past few years,” said I.Dhanalakshmi, another resident.

“When a homeless stranger is admitted temporarily to the family night shelter, it creates security problems for residents here,” said P.Muthulakshmi, who resides in the shelter with her family.

“The residents themselves have to take care of the problems in the shelter. No official would help. Even the police would harass us if we seek their help,” said A.Salman (21), one of the residents of the shelter.

Chennai Corporation Commissioner P.W.C.Davidar said: “If there is some problem [in night shelters] it would be sorted out.”

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Aloysius Xavier LopezJune 28, 2012