Cold comfort for city's homeless, old women | delhi | Hindustan Times
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Cold comfort for city's homeless, old women

delhi Updated: Dec 13, 2010 00:09 IST
Mallica Joshi

Bibi, 45, lives on the street outside Sai Baba temple on Lodhi Road. Every year she gears up for the winter with only a blanket and a plastic sheet to help keep the chill out.

"My husband left me on the streets 12 years ago. I have been living here since then," she says.

Unable to bear the cold outside, Bibi took refuge at the night shelter for women two years ago. However, life inside the shelter home, too, proved to be a cold comfort.

"There were too many people in the shelter and it was far from the temple. They gave us only one blanket," says Bibi, who begs outside the temple.

Every year more than 7,000 women are forced to spend the harsh winters out on the streets without a roof over their heads.

Modest estimates put the number of homeless in the city at 1,50,000. According to a survey by NGOs working for rights of the homeless, around 7,500 of these homeless are women. Half of these women have no family to speak of and many are mentally unsound. Despite this, there is only one shelter home for women in the city.

This shelter, at Regarpura in Karol Bagh, has a capacity to house 30 people at a time and is not only for women, but for children as well.

The shelter is being managed by Indo-Global Social Service Society (IGSSS), an NGO working for the homeless. The home is already running beyond capacity with 24 women and 10 children living there. The shelter, though well managed, is not enough to house the number of women it has at present.

"The number of women and children keep increasing as it gets colder, but we have to turn them away as we don't have space," says Rekha, in-charge of the shelter.

Government officials say they have reserved one room each in seven other shelters. However, a visit to these shelters shows that the facilities for women are not yet functional.

Chief secretary Rakesh Mehta, meanwhile, maintains that they are doing all they can to ensure that the homeless get a roof over their heads. "We have reserved rooms for women. They will soon be functional," he says.

According to NGOs, the location of night shelters is also questionable. "Our survey has shown that the maximum number of homeless women is in the New Delhi Municipal Council areas, and sadly there is no shelter home there," says IP Singh, adviser IGSSS.

Most of the women on the streets are old and have been left there by their families. "I have been living on the streets for the past seven years ever since my son left me near Jantar Mantar," says Malti, 68, a resident of Regarpura shelter.