Fighting an emerging crisis: Elderly & Homeless

Homelessness is a serious problem across the world. It is a concern faced by both developing and developed countries. Though the definition of homelessness differs across countries, the United Nations Economic and Social Council Statement broadly defines it as, ‘When we are talking about housing, we are not just talking about four walls and a roof. The right to adequate housing is about security of tenure, affordability, access to services and cultural adequacy. It is about protection from forced eviction and displacement, fighting homelessness, poverty and exclusion.

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Homelessness in India

In India, homelessness is defined as, ‘those who do not live in Census houses, but rather stay on pavements, roadsides, railway platforms, staircases, under flyovers, streets, in hume pipes, or other open spaces like places of worship etc.’ India ranks 6th among top 10 countries with significant homeless population and has the highest number of street children in the world. The other countries being Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, China, Haiti, Zimbabwe, Honduras, Germany, and United States. According to Census 2011, there are 17.7 lakhs homeless people in India with urban areas having the highest concentration of more than 9 lakhs homeless people.

Homelessness is one of the worst kinds of human rights violation. It not only deprives people of shelter, but also compromises their safety. Homelessness also limits accessibility to food, healthcare, well-being, employment opportunities, and education. The homeless population consists of men, women, mothers, the elderly, and the disabled. There are many NGOs in India that address different needs of the homeless population. Some organisations feed the needy, some provide necessary items like clothes, blankets, etc. and yet others work towards making healthcare, education, and employment opportunities available for this section of people.

Homeless women, in particular, are the most vulnerable and suffer the worst kind of violence and exploitation. Homeless mothers spend sleepless nights while safeguarding their children, especially daughters. In addition, there are also 40 million widowed women in India who are abandoned by their families and children. Among the widows are single mothers, pregnant women, and aged women.