With cold weather making its presence felt, night shelters in the city have started getting winter guests — people with no roofs over their heads.
There are two night shelters in the city: the Raen Basera in Sector 17 and the Raen Basera in Sector 26. The Raen Basera in Sector 17 has around 105 beds. Another 44 beds have been added to deal with the winter rush. The Raen Basera in Sector 26 has 108 beds.
“Although the normal dormitory is chargeable, 44 rooms have been kept for the poor without any charge,” says S S Saini, office coordinator of the UT Red Cross which is managing the shelter in Sector 17.
Officials say people have started coming to spend the night at the baseras. “We have some five to 10 people coming on a daily basis,” says Krishna Kumar, an employee at the Sector 17 night shelter, adding that this number goes up to 100 a day in the harsh winters.
Kumar, who has been working at the night shelter for the last 10 years, claims he has never witnessed the shelter getting overcrowded. “The number of people seeking shelter is always lesser than our capacity,” he says.
The officials say they provide shelter-seekers blankets and beds at the raen basera. “They come to spend the night,” says Kumar. “The next morning, they leave for their work.”
When the number of people increases, the UT Red Cross implements the alternative plan. “We take out the beds and then put mattresses on the floor, so that more and more people can be adjusted. We will make extra arrangements if required,” says an official.
After Deputy Commissioner Ajit Balaji Joshi’s recent inspection of the Raen Basera in Sector 17, officials have started renovating it.
“DC sahib has instructed us and we have started working on the renovation plan. There will be a fresh coat of paint and few other things will be done,” says Saini.
Also, a guard will be deployed by the Chandigarh Police at the night shelter. “In some cases, we see that people come in huge numbers and do mischievous activities,” says Saini. “A cop will be posted here at night to ensure that everything remains safe.”
A team of Red Cross officials has directed the employees at the raen basera to install a board with a message written in Hindi and Punjabi at the entrance of the gate. The message should read: “Alcohol and smoking not allowed inside the raen basera.”
While the UT Administration hopes to get more and more people at the night shelters, there are some who prefer to spend the night outside shops at the markets. “I have been sleeping outside a shop for the past three years in Sector 19,” says Rajesh, a rickshaw puller from Uttar Pradesh. “I know more than 50 people who sleep outside the shops, because they earn money from shop owners for keeping watch on their shops.”