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Sunday Special » People

Posted at: Jan 8, 2017, 12:41 AM; last updated: Jan 8, 2017, 2:24 AM (IST)

Chandigarh shelter-home vacant

Ramkrishan Upadhyay in Chandigarh
Chandigarh shelter-home vacant
There are no poor in Chandigarh! Take a look at the 105-bed, lone, renovated night shelter at Sector 17: it is mostly vacant. Look around harder: there are people sleeping on the footpath or in verandahs outside showrooms. Ask why.

Caretaker Ranjit Paul says homeless rickshaw-pullers prefer to sleep outside showrooms because they earn extra from the owners, who use them as security guards, and in return, also allow them to cook outside the showroom. A rickshaw-puller said there are several dos and don’ts for the shelter-home accommodation. Smoking is strictly prohibited and a hint of liquor disqualifies a shelter seeker. 

“Only a couple of homeless are coming to sleep in the dormitories these days despite many facilities being given gratis,” says Paul. While beds meant for the poor remain almost vacant, the paid ones are packed. 

Red Cross Chandigarh runs the night shelter with all basic facilities such as drinking water, washrooms, bathrooms, a common room and a TV. This is the oldest night shelter of the city which was inaugurated in 1990 by then Adviser, Baleshwar Rai. The shelter was renovated in 2015 and added many new facilities. Of the 105 beds, 44 are pay-and-use ones (each for Rs 50 for 12-hour occupancy). A few rooms with four beds are reserved for those who can pay Rs 250 per room. Around 50 beds are reserved for the poor free of charge, which usually remain vacant most of the time. 

Some dormitories are also kept for the homeless women, but these are also largely vacant. Paul says mostly students, small traders and low-paid workers find the facility affordable. Social activist Ajay Jagga says awareness should be created among the city homeless so that they use the shelter. 

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