Mumbai: A first of its kind shelter home where homeless women and children below seven years will be allowed to stay for up to six months has been set up in Saki Naka, Andheri, one of the busiest suburbs in Mumbai, by an NGO in partnership with the civic body.

Not only will they be provided food and shelter, but the destitute women will also be taught 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 ventured into Project Sharan to reach out to the homeless segment of the society to provide a home on a short-term basis till they are rehabilitated, or repatriated home where runaway children are concerned.

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 office space with computerised records of inmates, dormitory with bunk beds and lockers, kitchen with dining facilities, counselling-cum-medical room, caretaker’s room, SOS emergency room to accommodate sudden arrivals, children’s recreation room and skill training and a 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 norms, 284 night shelters are required in Maharashtra whereas there are only 12 permanent and 12 temporary shelters that are functional in the state.

Under the directives of the Supreme Court, the state of Maharashtra through the BMC allotted a 4,000 sq ft building at Sakinaka to set up temporary night shelters for homeless women and their children. The project is aimed at providing short-term accommodation from one night up to six months to single homeless mothers and their kids as well as runaway and homeless children for a night stay. It also aims at rehabilitation, providing education, vocational training, counselling and repatriations with families.

In order to successfully run the project, the YMCA has invited assistance from the Rotary Club of Mumbai Divas, a professional women’s club led by Tehmina Khandwalla, president, who sponsored the equipment and infrastructure cost.

In the daily routine women and children will be guided and slowly empowered to carry out activities on their own which will help them become self-reliant. Women will have to work gainfully during the day and shelter will be provided only at night and children will be taken care 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 a 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 the homeless mother on the street without shelter and provide a health, clean environment.