Who are the urban homeless? Described variously as homeless, houseless, roofless, shelter less people, and pavement dwellers Census of India: ‘houseless population’ as the persons who are not living in ‘census houses’, or a ‘structure with roof’ Possible places where the houseless population may sleep include: pavements in hume pipes under bridges under staircases courtyards of shrines parks homeless shelters
Mostly not recent migrantsHomelessness an enduring conditionLarge majority working men supporting impoverished families in villagesWomen escaping patriarchy and violenceChildren escaping intense abuse and hunger Abandoned women and the agedWomen who escape violenceComplete breakdown of family, community and state social protection systems
State denial and indifference Devalued citizenship rights Census in 2001 enumerated only 0.77 million urban houseless persons Gross underestimates because highly invisible group to officials: Lack formal address, identity proof, ration cards and voters’ identity cards Try to avoid visibility by state officials Micro-surveys estimate at least 1 percent of the population of cities This places estimate of urban homeless persons in India to be at least around 3 million
Battling the seasons, especially cold and monsoon rainsInvisible homeless deathsRenting even blankets to sleep in the openPerennial fear of physical violence and sexual abusePolice harassment and violence
Little and troubled access to even the most elementary public servicesEverything that they can use has to be paid for:every visit to the toiletevery bathwater, both for drinking and for general useblanket ‘I am afraid that even the mirror may not reflect your image if you happened to stand before it without any money!’ - Subbiah, an aged homeless man in Madurai
Food quantities may – but are not always – sufficientQuality monotonous, very elementary, often of poor nutritional value, and unhygienicSources: street vendors, foraging, alms from religious placesRarely get home cooked foodYet they spend the greatest part of their earnings in the daily struggle to feed themselves and their dependents.
Loneliness and social isolation dominant motifs of street life Around half homeless respondents in our study said they never celebrated festivals 71 per cent said they had no friends whom they could trust and 62 per cent felt that they belonged to no community, even of the homeless. 62 out of 85 homeless respondents felt they had never been helped by anyone during their lives on the streets Many find solace in their loneliness in drugs or intoxicationTherefore even working homeless populations suffer deep psycho-social problems as they spend years on streets
HOW MANY OF YOU ARE FROM DELHI??Extreme mutual acrimony and distrustHomeless widely seen as people with no rights, their livelihoods and shelter illegal, even criminalBeggary and vagrancy laws criminalise destitutionIntense unrelenting police harassment brutality constantly evicts homeless peopleDe facto debarment from public hospitals, schools, feeding centres, pensions and ration cards, and social security entitlementsVery few night sheltersShelters with sub human facilitiesNegligible government programs for food, housing and social security of the homeless
Homeless people dying on Delhi’s streets in winter 2009Letter to Supreme Court JudgesPrompt intervention creates right of homeless persons to 24 hour dignified sheltersDelhi doubled shelters in 2 daysNational effort under wayMajor bottleneck: no National Program for Urban Homeless
Delhi happens to be the only state in the “average” category in the SC commissioners report. All other states in poor150 odd Shelters with a capacity of 50 each on average – do the math??Delhi has more than 2 Lakh homeless with 50K children…Current capacities cover less than 5% of the need and the gap keeps growing…And Delhi is the best………..
Scheme very marginal in profile and importance.Scheme not promoted as an “entitlement”State and local governments required to take loans for what is essentially a welfare effortDemand driven program, depending on demand from local city and state governments, which rarely came because of invisibility, powerlessness and stigma that surrounds urban homeless personsLittle knowledge or participation of civil society or homeless persons themselvesExtremely marginal allocations, sometimes as low as 1 crore rupees for the entire country! Overall 8 crores were used for 114 projects throughout the country with 17,000 beds in the period of the scheme.