Homeless shelter vacant as people are unaware: HC

Bombay High Court has asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation and NGOs to give wide publicity about availability of such shelter homes.

Mumbai: Observing that many shelters for homeless citizens were unoccupied, the Bombay High Court has asked the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) and NGOs to give wide publicity about availability of such shelter homes.

The directions were given recently by a bench of Chief Justice Mohit Shah and Justice Nitin Jamdar who went through the reports mentioning conditions of shelters for homeless citizens.

The reports of joint inspection of the shelter homes by NGOs and authorities conducted in February 2012 were relied upon by Homeless Collective in their petition praying that the state was not doing enough to provide shelter to the homeless.

"It appears from these reports that many of the shelters are not occupied. In order to ensure that homeless citizens come to know about the availability of such shelters, it would be in the fitness of things for all the authorities as well as NGOs to give wide publicity about the availability of shelter homes", the judges noted.

Maharashtra government counsel Birendra Saraf said the affidavit could not be filed on account of fire mishap at Mantralaya on June 20. However, the state would file an affidavit before the end of this month, he said.

Counsel for the petitioners, Gayatri Singh and Kranti L C, suggested the homeless people should be communicated through radio broadcasts and by conducting orientations with community leaders to make them aware about the locations of shelters.

The petitioners further submitted that the authorities should convene focus groups to spread information about the locations of homeless shelters.

The other method suggested by the petitioners to make people aware about the shelter homes proposes innovative communication strategies in multiple languages which should be "inviting and not threatening".

The judges asked the state government as well as the municipal corporation to inform at the next hearing the steps being taken for giving wide publicity about the availability of shelter homes.

"This, however, will not prevent the NGOs themselves from giving the wide publicity about the availability of shelters as many of them are working for homeless population", the judges noted.
The court further observed that it would also be desirable for the authorities to take assistance of NGOs for this purpose.

The judges also asked the BMC additional municipal commissioner to convene a meeting of NGOs to make effective strategies for communication with the homeless to make them aware of the location of shelters and the facilities available there.

The court suggested that at such meeting, the said official should discuss with the NGOs about availability of land/buildings for providing shelters.

Deferring the matter to July 5, the bench took on record a statement made by Gayatri Singh, counsel for the petitioner, that they will furnish the list of places where temporary shelters for homeless can be provided by the civic body or state government.

The list will be furnished to the advocates representing the BMC and the state government by month end, Singh said.