To make sure the city's homeless have a place to protect themselves from the biting cold this year, non-government organisations (NGOs) have requested the Delhi government to make all temporary night shelters permanent.
Concerned over the fact that there is not a single permanent shelter in New Delhi area, forcing homeless people to sleep on footpaths, the NGOs plan to raise the matter in their meeting with the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB). The board looks after night shelters in Delhi.
"It is astonishing that there is not even a single permanent night shelter in the entire New Delhi area. Where do we expect the homeless persons to sleep? There is a greater need to convert the 84 temporary shelters into permanent ones to ensure homeless people don't have to spend their nights out in the cold," said Indu Prakash Singh, technical advisor of the Indo Global Social Service Society (IGSS), which deals with urban poverty and homeless.
"A number of homeless people had fallen ill while others had died last year while sleeping out in the cold," Singh said.
The Delhi High Court had also asked the Delhi government to provide adequate number of night shelters for the city's homeless.
"There is a provision in the Delhi Master Plan wherein the Delhi government has to set up one night shelter per one lakh population across the city. Delhi has a population of over 16 million, which means there should be at least 160 permanent homeless shelters but that has not been done so far," added Singh.
There are more than 1,50,000 homeless people in the city and a number of them use the night shelters run by DUSIB and managed by NGOs.
According to Delhi government officials, there are 84 temporary shelters (made of tents, tin, etc.) in Delhi and 66 permanent ones.
"Temporary shelters that have better occupancy should be made permanent. The current 150-odd shelters can accommodate less than 10% of the homeless residents. When the high court talks about having permanent shelters, it also means they should have a capacity to hold 50 persons per shelter. There are a few permanent shelters whose capacity is not even more then 10-15," said Paramjeet Kaur of Ashray Adhikar Abhiyaan, an NGO that runs a number of homeless shelters in the city.