Homeless in Delhi: Surviving wet, windy winter

Severe cold wave makes life on streets even more daunting

Eyetalk

January 29, 2022

/ By / New Delhi

Being homeless is a life of continuous struggle. But in extreme and unusually wet and windy winter, survival on streets has become even more challenges for thousands of Delhi’s homeless.

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Earlier this week, a Delhi-based NGO Centre for Holistic Development that works for empowerment of the homeless, especially women, wrote to Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal saying that at least 106 homeless persons had succumbed to the extreme cold wave that has gripped the national capital for almost a month.

Though the Delhi government denies the deaths, saying it has put up several night shelters for the homeless, life on Delhi’s mean streets has never been tougher than this winter, which has not only been exceptionally cold, but also wet and windy, making homeless even more vulnerable cold-induced diseases, if not hypothermia.

As Media India Group went around Delhi, a large number of the homeless were still on the streets, though some were also availing of the night shelters provided by the government, where besides a bed and blankets, they were also protected from the wind and rain outside. However, for many the shelters were suffocating due to poor ventilation of the shelters, which are basically tents without any windows or opening. This has forced many of the homeless to stay where they have always been – under the open skies, shivering their way through the night, and even the days that have been hardly any better, with the maximum temperature often struggling to cross 15°C, amidst heavy rains.

Many of the homeless, especially those near Nizamuddin Dargah and Lodhi Road in central New Delhi, seem to prefer to be outside than inside the shelters, a few of which have been constructed literally across the road for them.

Ramesh is a daily wage worker in New Delhi who says he has been forced to stay in the shelter as he has lost his job and had no income since the latest set of restrictions on Covid-19 were enforced by the Delhi government.

Ramesh complains about the poor condition of the shelter homes provided by the government. “It is very dirty. There is no washroom, instead a broken container is all we have here for water to cook our food or go to the toilet. The blankets here have not been changed or washed for over two months. There is no facility over here. They should at least provide the proper sanitation as many people over here are handicapped and kids. Even the food that we get here is bland and tastes like food in hospital. That is why there are so few people using the shelters and many of the beds are vacant,” Ramesh tells Media India Group.

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