Though Tiruchi has four night shelters with a capacity to accommodate 50 people not many are aware of it
Homeless people in the city are apparently unable to derive the utility of night shelters constructed by the Tiruchi Corporation under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission as they find it tough to abide by the requirement to possess Aadhar card, or some proof of identity.
The civic body was sanctioned financial assistance under Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana (National Urban Livelihoods Mission) for construction of such shelters at a cost of ₹2.55 crore in 2016 near the Railway Junction, Madurai Road, and East Boulevard Road in the city. Another one was recently opened within the Srirangam Government Hospital. The Centre had extended financial assistance of ₹25 lakh for each of the shelters and the remaining cost has been borne by the State government and the Corporation.
The facilities were constructed following a 2010 Supreme Court directive requiring State governments to provide shelter to the homeless, each with a capacity of housing 100 homeless people for every one lakh population.Further, governments were directed to provide basic amenities like bedrolls, potable drinking water, primary health care facilities and recreational facilities among other things.
Going by the National Report on the Status of Shelters for Urban Homeless – 2014 drafted by a team of Commissioners appointed by the Supreme Court who travelled across the country following the 2010 directive, requirement of nine such shelters were arrived at for Tiruchi city.
However, five years after the report, the city only has four, each with a capacity to accommodate only 50 people.
Social workers say around 80% of the homeless population in the city live on the streets.
The four night shelters in Tiruchi are maintained by a city-based NGO.
“Most residents are aged. They either leave home because they do not want to be a burden for their children or are left here by their children. Some go out in the city to work during the day while a few are unable to do so,” said S. Sivanjyothi, a representative of the NGO. The shelters have a bed, lockers for belongings, restrooms, and a television. The inmates are provided with three meals.
“Homeless people are admitted when they produce ration cards, voters ID or any such government ID. It is difficult to accommodate them without it,” he says. The night shelter at Srirangam GH also caters to visitors and attendants, Mr. Sivanjyothi added.
Though deserving, some people seeking refuge in these shelters are at a disadvantage since they do not possess these documents. “I was chased out of home by my mother-in-law. Is it possible for me to go get an Aadhar card? I have been sleeping on the streets with my two-year-old daughter because we do not have anywhere to go,” says a woman. The city also has several migrant labourers who rest under bridges and roadsides. Most do not possess these IDs.
The civic body too must also do its part to publicise the presence of these night shelters. “A signboard listing the presence of these shelters must be installed outside zonal offices, and awareness programmes are also needed. The civic body can also conduct surveys of pavement dwellers periodically and provide us the data,” said an employee at one of the shelters.