Bengaluru’s homeless population still waiting for shelter

In July, the BBMP was directed to set up 40 shelters for homeless in three months; so far three have come up

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed just how vulnerable some sections of society are, especially the homeless.

With only 14 shelters currently operational, existing infrastructure can support barely 10% of Bengaluru’s homeless population. A random survey by NGOs in the city pegged the number of homeless at around 5,200 in 2018. In a repeat exercise a year later, it was 4,000. In July 2021, the High Court directed the BBMP to establish at least 40 homeless shelters within three months and a total of 84 within six months. So far, only three have come up.

The need for more shelters is not being disputed by the palike. BBMP Special Commissioner (Welfare and Administration) Dayanand told The Hindu that it had sent 38 proposals for the construction of new shelters across the city to the National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM), which has granted in-principle approval for the same. “While a majority of funding will be from NULM, the BBMP may have to chip in as well,” he said.

A senior official also said that the civic body will conduct a third-party survey to ensure that locations of the new shelters are feasible. “The third-party survey is important to ensure that the shelters are accessible to the homeless. There is no point in setting up shelters in locations where the number of homeless is less,” the official said, and added that directions in this regard had already been given to the zonal joint commissioners. However, the surveys are yet to be taken up, the official claimed.

This year, several organisations are pressing for the establishment of more shelters, apart from implementation of guidelines for urban homeless drawn up under the Deendayal Antyodaya Yojana – National Urban Livelihoods Mission.

H.T. Ramachandrappa, secretary, Impact India Consortium, a network of 40 NGOs, pointed out that along with setting up more shelters, ensuring rights of the homeless was just as important. “Many NULM guidelines were yet to be implemented, such as the constitution of the Executive Committee under the chairmanship of the BBMP Commissioner, offering rehabilitative services, dedicated shelters for the homeless who are senior citizens, sick and mentally ill,” he said.

Dr. Ramachandrappa, who is also the project manager of Nammane, said state government should also declare October 10 as Homeless Day, apart from coming out with SOPs for running shelters and establishing systems.

There was a need for an all-inclusive policy on urban homeless. Several NGOs working for the homeless across the country have together drafted the National Policy for the Urban Homeless – 2021, which will soon be submitted to the Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs (MoHUA).

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