Fire-proof shelters for Delhi`s homeless

The Delhi government has said that at least 40 temporary tenements made of fire-resistant materials would be set up this winter.

New Delhi: Amid concerns being raised about
the safety of night shelters for the capital`s homeless, the
Delhi government has said that at least 40 temporary tenements
made of fire-resistant materials would be set up this winter.

"Between last year and now, 16 night shelters have been
lost to fires, so this year we have decided to give safety our
top priority and build temporary portable cabins that are
blaze-proof," Chetan Sanghi, CEO of Delhi Urban Shelter
Improvement Board, told an agency.

As many as 40 new shelters -- equipped with water and
toilet facilities, electricity, blankets and mattresses --
will be set up in various localities in the capital, he said,
adding fire alarms would also be installed in these shanties.

"Currently we are constructing 40 temporary night
shelters in various localities, 30 of which will be completed
by December 10. Three of these will be fully dedicated to
women," Sanghi said.

The shelters, built at a cost of Rs 3 lakh each, will be
erected in Jama Masjid, Yamuna Pusta, Nehru place and Kingsway
camp, among other areas.

In addition, the capital has 64 permanent night shelters,
out of which 44 are run by DUSIB, 18 by NGOs and two by the
Department of Women and Child welfare.

"Last year the temporary night shelters were set up by
the Revenue department and run by NGOs. This year DUSIB has
been given the charge and we will work concurrently with the
NGOs," said Vijay Sharma, Director of night shelters.

However, some of the NGOs claimed they were not in the know about the new night shelters and
expressed scepticism about the safety mechanism put in place
in these cabins. Aashraya Adhikar Abhiyan, St Stephens Hospital for
homeless, Butterflies and DAV educational society are some of
the organisations that have been chosen to be a part of the

"We have not been consulted and it is obvious we are
being sidelined. As for the government`s promise that safety
is being given top priority, they will remain promises on
paper," said Paramjit Kaur of Ashraya Adhikar Abhiyan.

"The government always says it has been giving top
preference to the homeless during winters. If that`s the case,
how would you explain the lives that were lost to fires at
these homes?" she asked.=

Out of the 84 temporary shelters built last year, 16 were
lost in fire accidents and others wound up as occupancy was
low and there were limited resources to run them.

"Temporary night shelters can not always be the solution
for homelessness. The government needs to come up with
something more concrete to address the issue," said Amod Kumar
from St Stephen`s hospital, which is the state-appointed
Mother NGO for the homeless.


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