As the city gets ready to tackle the upcoming monsoon, the impoverished and the homeless in Bengaluru have it even worse during the season. These are usually migrants to the city in search of job opportunities and primarily hail from a poor background. Desperate to improve their quality of life, they tend to take up manual labour and rag-picking jobs, often leaving them unable to afford a house for rent and rendering them homeless.
Apart from the lack of a roof over their heads, the rains cast a bleak shadow over their lives. The monsoon season also sees an increase in mosquitoes, making the homeless more prone to diseases. Consuming food in such unhygienic conditions can also contribute to ill-health.
In order to deal with the situation, the BBMP has taken up an initiative to conduct a survey to identify places that are heavily populated by the homeless, according to Nagendra Naik, Assistant Commissioner of BBMP’s Welfare department. These include areas around the city bus stand, railway station and KR Market. BBMP has also identified vacant buildings which it owns, in and around the Majestic area, which can be converted into temporary shelters.
Nagendra also said, “Especially for the monsoon season, 10 new homeless shelters will be set up with a deadline of June 30. These shelters will accommodate 800 to 1,000 people.”
The shelters will be established in the vicinity of Indira Canteens and primary health centres run by the BBMP. This will give the homeless easy access to food and health services.
Meanwhile, a visit to a few of the existing BBMP-run shelters highlights the reality.
At the shelter on Goods Shed Road, Gandhinagar, the garbage dump and the area where the homeless wash their clothes and bathe are in close proximity, thereby creating an unsanitary environment.
The caretaker of this shelter, S Yogesh, said that they have two rooms with bed and blankets that can accommodate up to 100 people. Indira Canteen coupons are provided every evening for dinner. However, lack of adequate number of toilets creates problems like long queues, he added.
At the destitute night shelter at Murphy Town, which is run by NGO Sparsha Trust, the funding is sufficient, but according to shelter in-charge Narayanaswamy, the roof of the eating area in the premises is damaged.
He added, “During the monsoon season, rain water can seep in through the damaged roof and stagnate, which can lead to unhealthy eating conditions. The windows also lack mosquito mesh, which creates further problems.” He also said that there was a shortage of good quality blankets.
According to a TOI report earlier this year, the Murphy Town shelter gets 40 people every day while the one on Goods Shed Road sees 20-25 people walk in.
Currently there are six operational shelters in the city, said Nagendra Naik, but according to the SC order, cities should have permanent 24/7 working shelters for the homeless under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM). There should be at least one shelter for every lakh of urban population. So hypothetically Bengaluru needs 120 homeless shelters.
The current working protocol of the shelters is to go out and look for homeless people and bring them to the shelters. But a vast majority of the homeless are unaware of the existence of these shelters. When contacted, the BBMP control room seemed unclear about the location of the shelters.
However, the BBMP does have plans of setting up more shelters at Bommanahalli, Yelahanka, and Dasarahalli. They are also awaiting response from the state committee regarding 10 proposals for refurbishment of buildings that will be converted into shelters.