Plenty of room at night shelters in Dwarka

One reason for the low occupancy is that individuals do not want to leave their families to come and stay at the facilities

It has been the coldest December since 1997 with minimum temperature dropping to 2.4°C, and forecast show that a western disturbance is likely to bring rain in the first week of January. Under these conditions, those living in the city without a roof over their head have been forced to return to night shelters to stay warm, but in Dwarka, several night shelters are not packed to capacity.

In Sector 10, a porta cabin night shelter is home to 48-year-old Surender Chouhan, a rickshaw puller who works in the vicinity. “I am one of the oldest regular occupants of this shelter and I cannot complain about it. We get proper bedding and blankets here, there is hot water to drink and everything is clean,” said Mr. Chouhan.

The cabin has a functional toilet but no bathing facility.

Mishri Chawdhary, caretaker of the shelter, said the cabin can accommodate 25-30 people.

But on any given night, there are never more than 25.

Of the four permanent shelters located in Dwarka, two are situated within 500 metres of each other in Sector 3. While one is for men, the other is for women only. The facilities can accommodate a maximum of 70 people each, although the actual number of occupants remains fairly low.

The shelters have working toilets, a geyser-equipped bathing facility, a television and sufficient bedding.

Yogendra Kumar, caretaker of the men’s shelter, said: “We have 150 blankets and around 50 matresses, but only 30-35 people come here every night.”

One reason for the low occupancy is that the men do not want to leave their families to come and stay here, he said.

Ranjeet Lal (35), who is unemployed, said: “I have been living here for a year and our caretakers treat us like family. They provide us with everything we need.” Another regular visitor of the shelter, Mahesh Joshi (42), who is from Uttarakhand, said: “I come to stay here every winter to look for work and go back in March after the snow clears from my village.”

“Alcoholics Anonymous holds a meeting here every evening and I do not allow the people here to smoke or drink. I lived here for two years, and our old caretaker and his supervisors felt I was honest and responsible so they gave me a job here,” said Mr. Kumar.

Underutilised facility

The women’s shelter had just one occupant. The caretaker, Nidhi Kumari (25), said: “ There aren’t more than 7-8 women on a usual night. A couple of women come during the day sometimes but that is all.”

Despite having the same same facilities as the men’s shelter and an all female staff, the shelter has remained underutilised, said Ms. Kumari.

“Sometimes the rescue van brings a few women here but most of them can’t leave their family on the road to come stay here,” said Poonam Yadav (26), who works at the shelter as a security guard.

These shelters are run by the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board in alliance with NGOs and charitable foundations. While ensuring proper infrastructure and facilities are the responsibility of the government, the NGOs function as management agencies that take care of daily maintenance.

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Printable version | Apr 1, 2020 11:20:24 AM |

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