Homelessness in urban centers is a major issue that arrests the growth and development of the lowest economic strata in our society. A study conducted by the IHD-GNCTD (2010) noted a shelter-less population of 56,000 in Delhi. The government runs night shelters in Delhi. Providing shelter to homeless is a temporary solution and improving their quality of life. The homeless population of Delhi prefers to sleep beside these facilities, along with the roadside or under a flyover or bridge.
The homeless population worries about sleeping beside strangers, bodies packed with bodies, stealing, molestation and so on being rampant issues. Though men and women sleep in different shelters, the shelters share a compound. Women feel safer to stay on the roads because the shelters hardly protect them from men leering, peeping, stalking, molesting or raping women. Since the year 2000, nine surveys, including one by the Commissioners of the Supreme Court, put the number of homeless between 52,000 and 2,46,000. Around 22,000 checks into shelters, each night and the rest sleep on roadsides and in parks.
Samunnathi is an NGO (under incorporation) that works for the cause of urban poverty and homelessness in Delhi. The organization proposes to initiate a project to address the issue of poverty among the urban homeless.
Urban Sustainable Livelihood Initiatives (USLI) is a comprehensive multi-layered program designed by Samunnathi to address the core developmental issue of POVERTY. But the program looks beyond the poverty as an end but looks at a sustainable developmental stage wherein the person will be in a position for addressing various manifestation of poverty like Housing, Income, Education, Health Care, Recreational Facilities and Societal Integration. The USLI is a comprehensive programme which has multiple components and addresses all of the above-mentioned aspects of human well-being. The programme also aims at creating a sustainable model of development wherein an outside agency’s role in addressing the livelihood issues is as minimal as possible and follows a systematic and planned withdrawal from the stakeholder. The involvement of the external agency is highly regulated and is need and context specific. In simple terms, the external agency support to the community is high only in the initial stages and withdraws once the basic needs are met.
The USLI is a comprehensive developmental approach in addressing the issue of Poverty and involves four major components of
- Child Welfare and Development, and
- Convergence and Advocacy.
The programme works on the basic idea of a providing the basic facilities upfront for the vulnerable and marginalized sections of the society and systematically working on capacitating the stakeholders to improve their social and economic status. The sustainability angle of the program is a key feature and a core element on which the entire programme works. The selected beneficiaries of the program will be provided direct support only in the initial stage and major part of the work is focused on developing the capability of the stakeholder to overcome the state of poverty and marginalization.
The Housing component of the programme aims to provide decent housing facilities for street dwellers in Delhi. This is one of the few direct support elements in the whole programme. Herein, willing street dwellers will be provided a decent shelter and clean environment. The programme functions in a clinical mode wherein a particular area within the city are selected and the street dwellers from the area will fall under the programme. The housing component is a comprehensive aspect of the program wherein specific features like identity cards, residential status, availability of toilets and clean environment etc. are duly considered.
The Skilling component involves two aspects 1) Skill Enhancement for people in labor force 2) Skill and Entrepreneurship Development for people who are not in labor force. While the first skilling component addresses the working population among the homeless population, the second component tries to bring in the not-working population and organize them in a better way so as to provide for their economic well-being. The skilling component forms the core area of the programme as it directly addresses the core issue of poverty. More importantly, the skilling component is the key towards achieving sustainable solutions to the core issue which is being addressed.
The component on Child Development and Welfare focuses on providing educational services to the children in the street-dwelling community, as they form the most vulnerable group due to poverty and working with children focusing on their welfare and development is key towards sustainability of the interventions in the area.
The Convergence and Advocacy component aims at integrating state as well as non-state programmes along with the other components of the programme. This comprehensive approach aids the beneficiaries to avail the assistance provided by such social welfare schemes that target the most vulnerable sections of society. Advocacy of the rights and the liaison of the allowances that such specific programmes propose is the notion on which the component rests.
The young team dedicated to policy and development is passionate about the social cause of urban poverty and homelessness. The team comprises of Sreshma Anitha and Rahul S. who co-founded the organization, joined by their dynamic team members Asfia Jamal, Jishnu Abhilash, Kaniska Singh and Richu Baby.
Rahul S. is a doctoral scholar from Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS). Sreshma Anitha, Jishnu Abhilash, and Richu Baby are postgraduates in public policy from TISS. Asfia Jamal and Kaniska Singh are social work researchers from Delhi School of Social Work.
The team staunchly believes in the citizen’s right to life and liberty. Human rights and social justice are at the core of their initiative.