Despite Norms Citys Homeless Left Out In The Cold

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   (2012-07-10 00:00:00)

In Yelahanka New Town, a community hall vibrates with festivities. On paper, in the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike records, the hall is earmarked to house the homeless. But residents say it has never been used as a shelter for the homeless.

Ramesh J., who lives near the community hall, said: “It is used for weddings and other social events. People [in need of shelter] sleep outside the building at night.” And this is how it has been for years, an indication of how the homeless are treated in the city.

The Hindu visited the BBMP-run shelters for the homeless in the city. Most guidelines given by the Supreme Court order (dated January 20, 2010) on specificities of shelter have not been complied with. For instance, the guidelines state that the government must ensure that the shelters are open 24 hours throughout the year and provide basic amenities such as mattresses, drinking water, toilets, etc. The guidelines also state that 30 per cent of the intake at these shelters must be set reserved for women and senior citizens.

Abysmal state

The shelter in Sanjay Gandhinagar, for instance, had three toilets, none usable.

The residents complained that they have not got water for the past one month.

Residents at the J.C. Road shelter said they were not given food.

Three families live in the Bapujinagar shelter, waiting to be relocated as their houses were washed away in torrential rain.

When The Hindu visited the shelter at around 10 p.m., there was no officer in-charge. There were no toilets and no water.

Although the guidelines state that one meal a day should be served, Ravichandra, one of its residents, said: “Nobody gives us food, we cook on our own ... we go to the next lane to get water... There are also no toilets here.”

Some of the shelters were overcrowded, with people outnumbering the beds available.

NGOs responsible?

The BBMP has entrusted the responsibility of running the shelters to some non-governmental organisations. Clifton Rozario, co-founder of the Alternative Law Forum, said, “State cannot outsource its responsibility. NGOs can be part of the process, but there is lack of clarity on their roles.”

When asked about the delay in setting up of shelters, C.G. Suprasanna, Joint Director for Development, Directorate of Municipal Administration, which is the nodal agency in the State for the project, said, “We are busy with our day-to-day official commitments. We cannot give them attention 24 hours. So, finding credible NGOs to do the work is a challenge.”

According to Mr. Suprasanna, shelters are managed better in places such as Hubli, Dharwad and Mysore. “The BBMP officials are insensitive towards this,” he said.

Ksthiji Urs, a member of the State committee for the implementation of the Supreme Court order, said: “In Chennai, they have housing programmes for the urban homeless. But the Supreme Court order is convenient for the authorities as they do not have to think about providing housing to the homeless.”