As dusk sets in, Sulekha (13), frantically begins searching for concrete construction pipes to spend the night. Homeless, she is often forced to spend the night on a footpath.
She is not the lone one. Scores of other homeless children, especially girls, share her fate. While 15 ‘open shelters’ have been set up for homeless boys in the city, there is none for girls. With no dedicated shelters for girls, a number of them are forced to spend their nights on the footpath, while others sleep under flyovers.
The advancing winter has only heightened the plight of the city’s homeless with each passing day. While there are night shelters for adults in the city, girls stay away fearing physical abuse. The city has 150 night shelters which can accommodate 14,000 people.
“So far, we have set up 15 open shelters where boys below the age of 18 years can come throughout the day. Girls are not allowed in these shelters. They must be seeking shelter on footpaths. Though a proposal has been made to create a shelter only for girls, it is yet to be cleared,” said a senior Delhi government official.
As per a survey conducted by an NGO — Save the Children — there are approximately 50,000 street children in the city, constituting 0.4% of the city’s population. As per the study, North Delhi has the highest concentration of street children.
Volunteers have been assigned several contact places where there is a high concentration of street children.