Why are there so few shelters for the homeless in Mumbai?
We are working to increase the number of shelter homes across city. Currently, there are 23 shelter homes with a capacity of more than 700 people. Three shelter homes are under construction in Dahisar, Chandivali and Magathane. We have also invited expression of interest to appoint an agency to run our existing 45 welfare centres as shelter homes for homeless. These appointments will happen by August, then we will get more space. We have set a target of increasing the number of shelter homes up to 131.
Almost all of the shelter homes that are running in the city do not meet the guidelines laid down in the National Urban Livelihood Mission (NULM) as they either take only street children, girls or women. What is the BMC doing for the most vulnerable homeless population?
I agree with the fact that the existing shelter homes are specialised ones and the organisations operating them take only children, girls or women. The problem is when we had invited expression of interest for operating these shelters homes we got response from organisations that were ready to operate them for specific people only. These shelter homes are also as per the NULM guidelines since there needs to be shelter homes for street children, girls, women, relatives of patients, senior citizens. We are trying to set up more shelters homes for general homeless where it will be open for 24 hours and they can come anytime and stay in shelter homes by showing any proof. These shelter homes will have all basic facilities like toilet, bathroom, drinking water. Since there is space constraint we can not provide kitchen facility.
BMC has planned new shelter homes but will it be sufficient for the current population of homeless?
As per the 2011 census Mumbai has over 56,000 homeless. A survey has also been initiated since February which is being conducted by a third party auditor to find the exact number of homeless in the city.
It has presently been stopped since the NGOs and activists working in this field have asked us not to conduct it during the monsoon. Initial census reports of about 15 wards has shown that the number of homeless people is about 4,500.
However, if NGOs say the numbers are more then we will reconcile with them. Once monsoon is over the survey will resume. We will wait for the full census report and then accordingly take further steps to enhance and increase shelter homes.
(As explained by Dr Sangita Hasnale, Assistant Municipal Commissioner, Planning and Urban Poverty Eradication Cell)