Commuters disembark from trains at a train station in Mumbai. Image Credit: AP

Mumbai: A shelter for homeless women and children below seven years of age, where they can live for up to six months, has been set up in Saki Naka, Andheri, one of the busiest suburbs in Mumbai, by a nongovernment organisation (NGO) in partnership with a civic body.

Not only will they be provided food and shelter but also destitute women will be trained in life and employment skills, said Allen Kotian, Senior Executive Secretary of Bombay Young Men’s Christian Association (YMCA). The YMCA along with Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has undertaken Project Sharan to provide a home on a short-term basis to people until they are rehabilitated or, in the case of runaway children, sent home.

The shelter has been developed to accommodate 32 women, and will gradually increase the number to 60 women and their children. The facilities at the centre include an office space with computerised records of inmates; dormitories, with bunk beds and lockers; a kitchen, with dining facilities; counselling-cum-medical room; caretaker’s room; SOS emergency room to accommodate sudden arrivals; children’s recreation room; and a skill training and personality enhancement room.

The NGO quotes the Indian Constitution, “Article 21 of the Constitution states that no person should be deprived of his life or personal liberty except according to the procedure established by the law.” A large number of judgements interpreting Article 21 have laid down right to shelter as being included in right to life.

According to law, 284 night shelters are required in Maharashtra; however, there are only 12 permanent and 12 temporary shelters that are functional in the state.

Under the directives of the Supreme Court, Maharashtra through the BMC allotted a 4,000sqft building at Saki Naka to set up a temporary night shelter for homeless women and their children. It also aims at rehabilitation, providing education, vocational training, counselling and reunions with families.

In order to successfully run the project, the YMCA has urged assistance from the Rotary Club of Mumbai Divas, a professional women’s club, whose president Tehmina Khandwalla sponsored the initiative’s equipment and infrastructure.

At the shelter, women and children will be guided and slowly empowered to carry out activities that will help them become self-reliant. Women will have to work gainfully during the day, and shelter will be provided only at night; child care will be provided during the day. After six years, the child will be placed in an alternate NGO or institution.

Food will be prepared by the inmates on rotation basis and clothing provided through donations. The staff include a social worker, para social worker, part-time counsellor, cook, cleaner and security attendant.

The project looks at establishing constant communication with homeless mothers and provide a healthy, clean environment for them.