There are very few shelters for homeless people in India, and those that do exist are primarily for men. In 2001 ActionAid India launched Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan – an intervention to create a nationwide network of homeless shelters that has pushed the number of shelters in Delhi from 10 to 269.
In India, homeless people have very few places to turn. In May 2000 ActionAid India, with support from other voluntary organisations, undertook a 10-day survey to assess the scale of the problem in Delhi as part of the new Aashray Adhikar Abhiyan (AAA) intervention to help homeless people.
From day one, homeless people were part of the survey team, with the initiative galvanising support from wider civil society, including school students, youth, university students, political activists, and people from all social classes.
Within two years the first ever shelter for women – managed by the homeless women themselves –was set up in the Young Women’s Christian Association premises. Networking and media work were prioritised to spread the message about the need for shelters, alongside petitions to the Delhi Development Authority – the result of which is a commitment in the Delhi Masterplan for 2021 to have one shelter per 100,000 people.
In 2013, AAA’s petition – filed in 2003 with 7,000 homeless people’s signatures – was activated, enabling it to seek orders for shelters across the country.
The results are impressive: in 2001 there were only 10 night shelters in Delhi, but by 2017 there were 269 – the highest anywhere in the world. AAA has also carried out its own surveys in the cities where it operates, highlighting the inaccuracies of official census figures that leave hundreds of thousands of people uncounted. In fact, the Delhi Human Development Report 2006 used AAA’s figures.
Since AAA associates with a large number of organisations, networks, alliances and formations, it is now an integral part of many social movements and formations, including Right to food, Right to Education, Social Security Now, Mobile Creches, Women’s movements, and others.
“It is impressive how the organization (in partnership with other national and international networks) managed to have significant impact on public opinion and at the policy level to address the urgent needs of homeless people over the past decade”
– Lorena Zarate
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