Rains, not so romantic for the homeless: NGOs come to the rescue
With the rain gods finally smiling, most Delhiites have been elated to witness the summer heat make way for the monsoon, after a long wait. But with this mercy comes the dreadful time for the homeless in the city. One such homeless denizen, Anita, used to sleep near the railway tracks along with her two young daughters, until recently. “Bohot tension hoti thi bacchon ki... sara sara din baarish mein bheegne se beemar na pad jayein (I was extremely worried about my kids falling sick due to continuously getting drenched in the rain).”
For those surviving on the streets, rains have spelt a major problem in the Covid times. Many are forced to meet challenges such as access to hygienic food and water, a clean place to sleep, and the constant fight to prevent any infections that can lower their immunity. And in this difficult journey, fortunately these homeless are being supported by some Delhi-NCR based NGOs.
Anita, who recently got a bed at a shelter, says she feels much safer now. “Hume vaccine ki pehli dose bhi lag gayi hai toh Covid-19 ka darr thoda kum hua hai,” says Anita. And Babboo Singh, a migrant labourer who stays at a shelter at Roshanara Road, says, “We know many who sleep on the footpaths and at bus stands to escape the deluge. I’m grateful that I have been taken in at the shelter, where basic amenities such as food and drinking water are all available.”
“We have over 2,000 homeless people staying in our shelters at the moment. And the number may rise with the rains. For their safety, we have to maintain absolute hygiene,” informs Santosh Jha, from Safe Approach NGO, which is running 45 shelters in the city in areas such as at Paharganj and Mangolpuri.
Not just sanitisation, but also encountering hunger amid the pandemic is on the agenda of these good Samaritans. “Many, especially the migrants and daily wage labourers, lost their jobs during the pandemic. We’ve been distributing food to them every day, as well as to those residing in the shelters,” says Sanjay Kumar, from Ashray Adhikar Abhiyan, which provides for the needs of the homeless at 12 shelters across Delhi. Kumar adds, “We are working on behavioural changes with the homeless, imparting knowledge of how to maintain hygiene, distributing masks as well as getting them vaccinated. Most of the shelters are pucca buildings and some are portacabins. Because of the rains, there is a concern of waterlogging in some areas, and we have informed the officials at Municipal Corporation Delhi, to clean the clogged drains.”
Working hard to ensure proper facilities during the monsoon, Jha adds, “Amid the pandemic, we are operating on 60% capacity in each shelter, in order to maintain social distancing protocols. Also, we are regularly sanitising the premises. To avoid overcrowding, we are arranging alternative living arrangements at other shelters for the poor who are coming to us.”
Another NGO, Society for Promotion of Youth and Masses (SPYM) is managing 67 shelters across Delhi, while ensuring the safety of the homeless during the monsoon. Ratan Kapoor from one of its shelters at Sarai Kale Khan, says, “We are not letting rainwater stagnate, regularly cleaning the premises. All shelters are being checked for water leakages because right now our efforts are also focussed at avoiding any outbreak of dengue. The safety of the homeless residing in shelters is our responsibility, and we are doing all we can to ensure they stay safe.”
Kudos to these noble souls doing their bit. Are you doing yours?
Author tweets @bhagat_mallika