Night shelter homes in the city remain underutilised
Despite the availability of night shelter homes in the city, several homeless people and beggars are often spotted by police officials on the streets, informed authorities.
There are a total of seven night shelter homes in the city which are run by the state social welfare department in collaboration with various NGOs. The inmates are provided with food and lodging in these shelters.
In the absence of any permanent homes for these people, these shelter homes are primarily meant for beggars who are involved in begging the entire day on the streets to spend the night. However, authorities informed that some homeless people are allowed to stay in these shelters on genuine grounds during the day as well.
“There are a few people in need of medical attention in our shelter. Some of them are affected by paralysis while some are differently-abled or suffering from other diseases. They are provided with free medical facilities at the shelter,” said Dr M Alam of the NGO, Northeast Voluntary Organisation, which manages two night shelter homes in the city.
He added that currently they do not provide any rehabilitation measures for the homeless people.
However, police officials informed G Plus that some shelter homes remain underutilised.
“When we go for patrolling at night in different parts of the city, we spot a lot of destitutes and homeless families on the streets. We suspect that some of them also suffer from medical conditions,” said Additional Commissioner of Police (ACP) (Police Reserve), Rahul Amin.
He added that better coordination and scrutiny is needed for providing shelter to homeless people on the streets.
“We feel very bad to see the plight of such people. We come across a lot of beggars including sick elderly people as well as women and children on a regular basis,” informed Amin adding that while coming across homeless people, he tells them to avail the facility of the night shelter homes, but finds no decline in the number of homeless people across the city.
On the other hand, NGO officials who are responsible for managing the night shelter homes, put the blame on the homeless. They say that they face the trouble of convincing the destitutes and vagrants who often do not want to spend the night at shelter homes and on the contrary, find it “inconvenient.”
“Temple premises are one of the most favourite spots of the beggars in the city. Since they are able to earn decent amount of money by begging outside the temples, they also prefer to spend the night there and find it inconvenient to shift to shelter homes,” said Alam.
In order to check this phenomenon, the NGOs with the help of police conduct rescue of the vagrants from different places across Guwahati. They send their volunteers who conduct searches on the streets and convince them.
Officials say that one of the most preferred places for the beggars to spend their nights is in the premises of Sukhweswar temple.
Authorities from the social welfare department said that currently the government does not plan on opening any new shelter homes in the city.
“The existing ones first need to be maintained in a better manner and the government is working with the NGOs in this regard,” said Sumita Debnath, junior assistant at the directorate of social welfare.
Experts say that the necessity for night shelter homes to be maintained in a good condition and their proper evaluation is crucial in a state like Assam which has the highest number of beggars among all the northeastern states.
Union Minister for Social Justice Thawar Chand Gehlot, on Wednesday March 21, informed the Lok Sabha that Assam has the highest number of beggars and vagrants in the entire northeast.
Assam also has the 4th highest number of women beggars in India, the minister informed the house.
According to 2011 Census, Assam has 22,116 destitute people out of which 14,847 are women, against 7,269 men.
The other northeastern states following the same trend in the number of beggars are Manipur, Tripura and Meghalaya.