A warm refuge from freezing nights
The night is dark and full of terrors. And it’s only worse when the temperature dips to bone-chilling levels. To provide shelters to those who don’t have a place to spend the night in the freezing December cold, the municipal corporation has set up 11 night shelters in the city, where one can take a warm refuge after showing an identity card.
One such shelter is about 200 metres away from the Postgraduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (PGIMER)’s gate number 1 where two white tarpaulin tents have been set up which can accommodate around 150 people.
Sadarajinder, 28, the caretaker of the shelter, says, “We have space for around 150 people and we provide people quilts, mattresses and pillows to all seeking shelter here. We have got a good response so far.”
He reveals how there were only seven people at the night shelter on December 19 when the municipal corporation first threw it open. “Now, these are almost full by the night,” he says.
However, people who are drunk are not allowed to enter. “We deal strictly with people who come under the influence of liquor here. Last year, they used to misbehave but this time, police is also making frequent rounds here to ensure there is no trouble. The cops have also given us their contact number for emergency situations,” adds Sadarajinder.
Rahul Yadav, 29, a native of Bihar, who has come for his mother’s treatment at PGIMER, says the night shelters are a good initiative. “Earlier, it was very difficult to find a shelter near the institute. There are other shelters that are run by organisations on PGI campus but those are always full. We hope the government continues this initiative even in summers,” he adds.
SCOPE FOR IMPROVEMENT
A kilometre away is the shelter near the Government Multispeciality Hospital, Sector 16. Narender Kumar, 32, of Hisar in Haryana, who has been sleeping in the shelter for the last three nights, says that though there aren’t many problems, there is always scope for improvement.
“They have made good arrangements here. Lights, heaters, quilt, mattresses are available but you still feel cold. Even they cannot really help in this, especially when patients are sleeping here,” said Kumar.
Similarly, inhabitants say the toilets should be cleaned by authorities more frequently.
“The toilet vans should be cleaned more frequently as they start emitting foul smell which can be dangerous for patients and other too,” said Sushil, an attendant said.
EIGHT SHELTERS IN P’KULA
In Panchkula, there are around eight night shelters. Five of these are in Panchkula city, of which two are permanent and three are set up during the winter season, while one is in Kalka and two are in Pinjore.
MC commissioner Rajesh Jogpal said that in Panchkula, the night shelters are operational at Sector 5 bus stand, Sector 8 market, Sector 11, Sector 16 and in Red Cross Society, Sector 15. He said these shelters have space for 30 to 100 persons at a time and facilities like quilts, pillow, drinking water and toilets are provided to them.
“Most people who come here are either homeless or have come from other states or districts. To avoid any inconvenience, we have arranged some heaters,” said Jogpal.
While most shelters in Panchkula have a capacity of 20, the one at the old-age home in Sector 15 can accommodate 100 persons. In Pinjore, the night shelter at Rattpur colony has space for 30 persons while the other one at a community centre on Bitna road, Pinjore, also has similar arrangements.
In Kalka, the night shelter is located behind the MC zone office. Those wanting to stay are provided beds, quilts and mattresses. Currently, renovation work is underway at the shelter. Once complete, there would be two more rooms and a hall where the homeless can seek refuge. Facilities such as washing machine, television, water purifier and heater are also on the cards as per officials.
42-BED SHELTER IN MOHALI
Under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission, the Punjab government has started a shelter for the homeless in Mohali. Located in Phase 6, it has a capacity of 42 beds. But due to lack of awareness about the shelter, it sees only around 10 to 12 visitors a night.
Rohit Salhotra from Gurdaspur, who was staying in the family room, while praising the facility said, “We have been staying here for the past four days along. My mother is undergoing treatment at PGI and my family spends nights here as we feel safe.”
He added that since the facility is available here, authorities should start awareness drives in the area so that nobody sleeps in cold.