Only 12 night shelters for 1500 people: Hyderabad’s homeless forced to sleep on the road

The 12 night shelters presently can accommodate over 350 people.
Only 12 night shelters for 1500 people: Hyderabad’s homeless forced to sleep on the road
Only 12 night shelters for 1500 people: Hyderabad’s homeless forced to sleep on the road
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Mohana, a migrant from Orissa, lives in the night shelter near Begumpet flyover in Hyderabad. However, for the past few days after the monsoon hit Hyderabad, he has been sharing his bed with another person. 

“There is a lot of rush during the night. We join two beds, so that at least three people can sleep together,” he says. 

The Begumpet night shelter, which provides urban homeless persons a place to rest, does not charge money. 

“This night shelter consists of 25 beds, however, for the past few days, more than 35 people have been coming to take shelter. There is not much space to provide beds to everyone. So, we manage by sharing the beds,” says Mohammad Siddiqui, manager and in-charge of the Begumpet night shelter. 

According to Siddiqui, with a limited number of beds, several homeless people near that area even choose to sleep on the road and at the Begumpet railway station near the shelter.

“Following rains every now and then, the urban homeless people have become even more prone to falling sick. Even though the government has been providing them with night shelters, the issue remains that not everybody has access to it,” says George Rakesh Babu, the founder of Good Samaritan’s India, a Hyderabad-based NGO which provides shelter to homeless and abandoned persons.  

According to George, urban homeless persons contribute to the economy of the cities as cheap labour in the informal sector, but they live with no shelter or social security protection. 

In order to provide essential services to the urban homeless, the Greater Hyderabad Municipal Corporation (GHMC) under the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) has been providing night shelter as part of the scheme ‘Shelter for Urban Homeless’ (SUH) in the city. 

Currently, the GHMC along with a few NGOs has been operating 12 working night shelters across the city, while seven night shelters are still under construction. The 12 night shelters presently can accommodate over 350 people. 

“The main problem we are facing is that there are not enough night shelters in the city to accommodate all the homeless persons,” says Bhaskara Chary, Additional Commissioner of Urban Community Development (UCD) wing for GHMC. 

He says the GHMC has proposed to build 10 more shelters in the city, however, the city lacks open spaces. 

“Due to lack of open spaces, we are unable to get permission to build more night shelters. However, we have also been asking for permission to convert the existing community halls into night shelters,” he told The News Minute. 

According to a recent survey conducted by UCD wing of GHMC, there are nearly 1500 urban homeless people in the city. 

“If we estimate, the city needs more than 30 night shelters to accommodate those 1500 urban homeless people,” says Krishna Chaitanya, State Mission Coordinator for GHMC. 

“The numbers GHMC has come up with, are far too less for Hyderabad. We rescue several homeless and get a minimum of five calls for rescuing homeless persons. There are over 4000 homeless persons in the city, including people who have migrated from other places to Hyderabad,” says George. 

He says nearly 60% of the homeless persons do not have access to night shelters, as there is either not enough space or no night shelters in the area. 

However, according to the Additional Commissioner of UCD wing, the demand generally increases during the monsoon, but some of the night shelters remain 50% empty. 

“This rush is only during the monsoon. We can provide shelters but can’t force people to use it. Except during monsoons, these night shelters are not used much by the city’s homeless. We even provide counselling sessions, but they prefer sleeping on the road and stations than in the night shelters. So we want to build shelters near places like railway stations, bus stations and hospitals to improve accessibility. There is no use of building a shelter on the outskirts of the city,” Bhaskara says.

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