DUSIB: Providing homeless a sense of security
By Soma Chakraborty
According to an official survey conducted there are nearly 1,50,000 homeless people in Delhi. Experts opine that with the continuing influx of migrant labourers from other parts of the country to the national capital, this number has increased manifolds in the last 10 years. The homeless people are not only deprived of a roof but also of an identity which is a crucial tool to establish a claim in the city, making them the most vulnerable section of the society. Aiming at providing the homeless a sense of security and to boost the infrastructure of the national capital, the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has initiated several measures, the details of which were shared by its CEO Shurbir Singh, a 2004-batch IAS officer of the AGMUT cadre, to The Bridge India.
Aiming at strengthening the infrastructure facilities of Delhi, one of the key steps taken by the DUSIB is setting up of night shelters for the homeless. In 2001, Delhi had only 23 government-run night shelters for the homeless. However, over the years, the need for the night shelters increased manifold due to continuous influx of homeless people in the metropolis. “To meet this increasing demand, the DUSIB in 2010 increased the number of night shelters to 148,” DUSIB CEO Shurbir Singh said.
Currently, the DUSIB is operating and managing about 198 night shelters with a capacity of about 17,000 persons through Shelter Management Agencies (SMAs). These shelters spread across Delhi are operational on permanent basis in 83 RCC buildings and 115 portable cabin structures throughout the year on 24 hours basis.
However, the night shelters get overcrowded during winters as more people come in to save themselves from the cold waves. As Delhi witnessed harsh winters, the IAS officer said, “About 60 German type water proof and fire retardant pagoda tent night shelters having capacity of 1,100 persons have been set up additionally on temporary basis at about 40 locations.”
Besides, a Control Room is also set up by the DUSIB for attending the complaints of the homeless and rescue operations are carried out through appointed agencies to rescue those sleeping in the open and bring them to the nearby night shelters during the winter season, he said.
Functioning Of Night Shelters
The DUSIB runs several categories of night shelters for gents, children, separate shelters for disabled persons, women, family, drug addicts as well as recovery shelters for patients who need care after being discharged from hospitals.
Explaining the functioning of these night shelters, the CEO said, “A homeless can approach to any nearby night shelter as per his or her wish. On reaching there, the person contacts the ‘caretaker’ present there who shows the person the place or cot as per availability for taking rest and issue bedsheet, pillow and blanket (during winter season) as per the need.”
He further said, “The caretaker allows the person to use facilities available at the night shelter, such as television, drinking water, toilet, lockers for belongings, complaint box, first aid kit, bathing facility, air coolers in summers and hot water in winter. Nothing is charged for availing the facilities.” The caretakers remain available in each shift of eight hours at each night shelter.
Security Measures For Children, Women At Shelter Homes
Homelessness makes children and women highly vulnerable, especially at night. To address this issue, women security guards in addition to women caretakers are deployed by the DUSIB at night shelters round the clock. “Besides, CCTVs at all women night shelters are provided as an additional safety measure,” Singh said.
Challenges Faced By Dusib
Even though the DUSIB is doing a yeoman service, there are challenges galore. The main challenge is the availability of land pockets to build night shelters for the homeless. Though DUSIB has been running night shelters in its existing buildings or porta-cabins, requirement of such shelters still persists.
“DUSIB requires allotment of land pockets from land owning or developing agencies like the DDA, the North Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the MCD for setting up adequate night shelters at the locations of high concentration of homeless people. But adequate land spaces have not been made available by the land owning agencies at locations of high concentration of homeless people like Old Delhi Railway Station, New Delhi Railway Station, Chandni Chowk, AIIMS, Connaught place and ISBTs. Some land pockets provided by the DDA in places Dwarka, Rohini and Narela are of no use as concentration of homeless in these areas is very low,” the CEO rued.
Besides, attitude problem of homeless people is another key challenge. “Some homeless people do not readily shift to night shelters due to alcohol or drug addiction or in the interest of getting donations from donors, thereby creating embarrassment to the department in its rescuing efforts,” Singh said.
The Way Forward
The issue of land availability, the IAS officer said, can be sorted out by developing a PPP model. “Night shelters can be provided at strategic locations by involving land owning government authorities, DUSIB and private developers. The developers can be allowed to do commercial activities in certain portion of the land and the remaining part can be used for building night shelters,” the CEO concluded.