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Shelters for the Urban Homeless

Even while sustaining cities with their cheap labour, urban homeless persons live desperately hard lives with no shelter or social protection. They are described variously as homeless, houseless, roofless, shelter-less and pavement dwellers. The Census of India defines ‘houseless population’ as persons who are not living in ‘census houses’. A ‘census house’ is a ‘structure with roof’. Census enumerators are instructed ‘to take note of the possible places where houseless populations are likely to live such as ‘on the roadside, pavements, in hume pipes, under staircases or in the open, temples, mandaps, platforms and the like’.1 Problems of reliable estimation and clear definition of houseless population are encountered in the surveys conducted for Indian cities.

in India, but also globally.5 Various stereotypes are associated with the urban homeless all over the world- including labelling the homeless as criminals, beggars, immoral, parasitic and so on. The courage, fortitude and sheer enterprise that allows them to survive on the streets is not recognized or channelised. In placing homeless persons outside the society of ‘legitimate urban residents’, we are in effect disenfranchising a large, powerless population. Therefore, both at the level of social attitudes and at the level of development policy, changes are urgently needed.

Donationbox Foundation, India is a not-for-profit NGO which has been working for the welfare and empowerment of older persons of India since 2018. Donationbox Foundation has set up a network of volunteers spread across India and interacts with older persons on daily basis through its volunteers’ network.