SC panel asks Delhi govt to increase homeless shelters in view of Covid
The state level monitoring committee, which was constituted following Supreme Court order, on night shelters has asked the Delhi government to increase the number of temporary shelters to ensure adequate physical distance is maintained between occupants this winter in view of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.
In a meeting held last week, the committee asked the Delhi government’s Delhi Urban Shelter improvement Board (DUSIB), which is responsible for running the shelters for homeless people, to prepare this year’s Winter Action Plan conforming to the Covid-related norms.
Indu Prakash Singh, member of the monitoring committee, said, “There is a need to draw up the winter action plan now, as we will need more temporary shelters this time as physical distance has to be ensured between individuals. The existing capacity of shelters will reduce this time. We have asked DUSIB to prepare a detailed plan and share it with us. We have also told other government agencies not to demolish or close any shelter home, especially those operating in porta cabins, on their land.”
According to a senior DUSIB official, aware of the development, the board is planning to set up more temporary tents this time. It is also planning to make two of its under-construction shelter home buildings at Dwarka and Geeta Colony, each with a capacity to house close to 300-400 people, operational by November, said a DUSIB official.
The DUSIB has 211 shelter homes in various parts of the city. During the winter season, the board sets up temporary shelters depending on the requirement. According to DUSIB officials, the board on an average sets up 50-60 additional tents annually during the winter season.
“While the number will increase due to social distancing, we will have to assess the demand. We may have to set up 100-125 tents. The details are being worked out. We are planning to set up bigger tents or temporary structures, as we have to make arrangements for toilets, water, etc also. We can accommodate more people in these tents,” said a DUSIB official, who was part of the meeting.
According to DUSIB officials, nearly 18,000 people can be accommodated in the existing night shelters. “But on an average, only 11,000-12,000 people use our facilities. So, we already have additional space. Our two buildings in Dwarka and Geeta Colony will also be operational soon,” said the official.
The NGOs running the night shelters in the city say that managing people during winter will be a challenge. During the lockdown, the homeless shelters could accommodate more people. “But during winter, everyone sleeps inside. We need to create adequate space.
As compared to last year, we have more people at our shelter homes right now. The cases of covid are on a rise. We should plan for the winter now,” said Rajesh Kumar, national executive director of Society For promotion of Youth and Masses, which manages 24 shelters for homeless people across Delhi.
The Delhi government did not offer a comment.