Chennai

Providing the homeless a roof over their heads

For a cause: Volunteers at the booths set up by the Chennai Corporation in public places to raise awareness on World Homeless Day.  

“Two women came to us begging, and looked very weak and famished. When we asked them if they were willing to go to a shelter, they immediately agreed. We referred them to a Corporation-run shelter this morning,” said Suriya, a volunteer with a city-based NGO.

Suriya was with seven other volunteers at Chennai Central, busy distributing pamphlets which had details about the Corporation shelter programme and the hotline number - 1913.

Hundreds of volunteers from various service organisations joined hands with the Greater Chennai Corporation to create awareness among people on the World Homeless Day on Tuesday. They could be seen outside railway stations and bus stops in the city, holding awareness programmes and referring destitutes to the nearest shelters.

“Until noon we referred at least 20 people to shelters. We are also getting calls from people who had identified homeless in need of care and protection in their areas,” said an official from the Greater Chennai Corporation.

There are currently 47 homeless shelters in the city, which is inadequate considering the Supreme Court mandate of one shelter for every one lakh population, making the required number of shelters for Chennai around 70.

Gaps in enumeration

A recent report prepared by the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCDUC) under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (DAY) - National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) in Tamil Nadu pointed out to the various challenges involved in enumerating the homeless community.

According to 2011 Census, 50,929 homeless were identified in Tamil Nadu of which 72.9% were residing in cities and towns. Chennai was reported to have 16,682 homeless people, but an enumeration undertaken by the GCC the same year identified only 11,116 such people in the city.

In the year 2014, the Corporation in its survey for NULM identified 8,226 homeless people in Chennai and around 3,500 so far this year.

“While the awareness programme is a welcome move, the government has to take a sensitive community centric approach to assess the socio-economic vulnerability of the urban homeless,” said Vanessa Peter, policy researcher IRCDUC.

The report pointed out that the absence of understanding about homeless communities, including families and migrants who are often left out, and non-implementation of a participatory and sensitive enumeration process were the key challenges involved in enumeration.

“We have been individually talking to destitute homeless and homeless families, but the latter are reluctant to move as there is no facility to accommodate them together. But the talks are on to get them permanent housing,” said a civic official.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 7:18:46 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/providing-the-homeless-a-roof-over-their-heads/article19835503.ece

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