Pointing at the recent spate of road accidents due to drink-driving, which led to the deaths of people sleeping on pavements, Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSIB) has issued an advisory to NGOs running night shelters in Delhi to “persuade the homeless not to sleep near the main roads”. Delhi Police has also been asked to instruct its field staff to motivate the homeless to use night shelters.
DUSIB is also looking at identifying certain spaces away from the roads which will operate as “open shelters”. Such shelters will not have concrete enclosures, but will be a space with proper flooring and earmarked by the government, that can be used by the homeless to sleep, officials said.
“During certain months, when the weather is pleasant, such open spaces can be used to sleep. Such shelters will be identified away from the main roads. A viable design for these new shelters is being prepared. To begin with, we will be identifying spaces around Yamuna Pushta area,” an official said.
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DUSIB officials have admitted that in areas such Yamuna Pushta, occupancy of night shelters is average as many prefer to sleep on pavements.
“Existing night shelters in the city are more viable for use during winters, when one needs protection from the cold. But in summers, people prefer to sleep in the open,” an official said.
To change this, NGOs have been asked to interact with the homeless and get them to use night shelter facilities. “We have asked NGOs to ensure that all shelters are equipped with the required facilities such as fans, mattresses, blankets, clean toilets and drinking water,” CEO of DUSIB Amarnath said.
DUSIB has also written to the Delhi Police Commissioner, seeking the help of beat constables in encouraging the homeless to use the shelters. Police, however, said the social welfare department should take care of the issue.
Special Commissioner of Police (Law and Order) Deepak Mishra said, “It is difficult for us to interfere with their resolve to sleep on the pavement. We are already facing a plethora of court cases on the same issue.”
There are 185 shelters operating in Delhi with around 12 more in the pipeline. Also, Lt-Governor Najeeb Jung had directed DUSIB to set up separate night shelters for homeless women with adequate attention to their safety, before the onset of winter.