URBAN HOMELESSNESS

Urban homelessness is one the fastest growing and paradoxically least studied issues in the developing world. Conservative estimates suggest that there are at least 150,000 homeless in Delhi, India. As of 2010, the existing shelters in Delhi accommodated only around 10,000 homeless. Tough homelessness in India is largely caused by structural forces formed by the intersection of poverty with housing market deficiencies; it is dominantly viewed as a result of individual deficiencies of the homeless themselves. Social stigma exacerbates the condition of the homeless who constitute one of the most socio-economically vulnerable sections of urban society. Given the lack of permanent or temporary shelters for the homeless, urban space becomes the necessary setting and dominant context their lives. Yet right to access of space by homeless is rarely addressed in urban discourse and the presence of homeless is overwhelmingly perceived as negative by both society and authorities. The research explores the spatial dimensions of the urban homeless, with a focus on Delhi. The overall development objective was to create urban environments that are socio-spatially inclusive of urban citizens including those who experience homelessness

The study generated various practical implications for the agencies working with homelessness, chief being the need to see night shelters need to be seen in conjunction with space based interventions that promote integration of homeless in urban space and urban society using localised spatial information and sensitisation of local communities. Urban interventions need to be careful in considering who they exclude even while they employ ‘inclusive’ processes to avoid entrenching existing social biases against homeless. 

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