The citys only night shelter,which has 50 free beds meant for the poor and homeless,remains mostly unoccupied night after night. More than 60 per cent of the beds remain unoccupied every night in the shelter,which is located behind the Sector 17 bus terminus and maintained by the UT Red Cross. The free beds and their related costs are paid for by the Social Welfare Department,Chandigarh.
With the increasing number of migrations from other states,the city is now host to many jobless migrants. Many are deprived of a regular meal and shelter. Looking into the matter of homeless destitutes,the citys administration last year announced a free night shelter service that would operate throughout the year. The Sector 17 night shelter consists of a total of 100 beds,with 50 pay-and-rent beds. The fare ranges between 40 and 55 rupees per bed and Rs 240 for a family room.
The other 50,which are free of charge,remain vacant,even though the rains have made it difficult for many homeless people to sleep on the footpaths. At the most,eight beds remain occupied every night and till now,we have never received more than this number of people for the free beds, said Ranjeet Pal,a receptionist at the night shelter. The administration has done its best to inform the homeless about the free beds,but what can we do? They dont come here and still sleep outside, added Pal.
Among these homeless people are aged and sick individuals desperately in need of a comfortable place to sleep.
Many of the homeless,when interviewed,said they were completely unaware of such a facility. I have been sleeping here at the station for a long time and I dont know anything about a free bed. Nothing is free,we have to pay, remarked an ailing Ashok Kumar from Uttar Pradesh.
Kumar sleeps at the bus terminus close to the night shelter with a group of other homeless people,many of whom do not have the slightest idea about the free service. Even those who do say they cannot stay there. We slept on the pavement during winter and now also we still sleep here. One year ago I went to stay at the shelter for 25 rupees. It was too much,I only earn 100 rupee a day, said Anil Kumar from Shaijanpur.