Night shelter homes of little use for the city’s homeless

Sameer Singh

Tribune News Service

Bathinda, January 10

A number of destitute persons spend nights sleeping on footpaths in biting cold outside the night shelter near the railway station in the city.

This is despite the fact that two spacious night shelter homes are there in the city. However, preferring footpath to shelter homes raises questions over the way the administration is operating these.

During a visit by the Bathinda Tribune team, it was found that a majority of the homeless persons prefer to spend night by sleeping on footpaths rather than at the night shelter facility situated a few metres away.

A majority of the homeless persons lying on footpath near the city railway station said they were not allowed to avail of the night shelter facility.

Saajan Kumar (name changed), one of the homeless persons lying on the footpath, said, “Whenever we go to the night shelter to sleep, the staff there ask us not to come here and make arrangements on our own. Left without choice, I have to lay sheets and blankets by the roadside to sleep every night.”

Another homeless person sleeping beside Saajan with his body covered from head to toe with a ‘shawl’ said, “They won’t let us sleep at the nigh shelter home. No one can change our fate. We are meant to sleep on roadsides only. What is the use of building a night shelter facility, if they do not want us to use it? I have severe cold and fever and not sure how long am I going to live this way?”

Another homeless person who makes handbags of clothes said, “I cannot stay at the night shelter home as the atmosphere is really bad and a majority of the occupants use drugs and other sorts of intoxicants at night. I do not feel safe staying inside for the night. So I prefer to spread out sheets on the footpath to sleep as it is certainly a safer option for me.”

Sources said most of the times, only three to four homeless persons sleep inside the night shelter home and a majority of them prefer to sleep on footpaths.

On the other hand, executive members of NGO Sahara Welfare Society said homeless persons didn’t prefer to stay inside the night shelter as by doing so they would not be getting the blankets/woollens donated to them by city residents.

They added that homeless persons further sell these blankets to get money for their own expenditures.

The situation of the night shelter situated at the Amrik Singh road is not different as only two to three homeless persons avail of the facility while dozens of homeless persons could be seen sleeping on footpaths at different locations in the city.

Notably, as per the Sahara Welfare Society’s (city based NGO) data, there have been two deaths reported in the city due to the chilly weather conditions in the past 10 days.

Deputy Commissioner Praneet Bhardwaj said the MCB was directly responsible for maintaining/running the night shelter homes in the city.

Municipal Commissioner Rishipal Singh could not be contacted despite repeated attempts.