Homelessness: Amid glitzy, blinding city lights

DRIVING on big flyovers one cannot help but marvel at the engineering feat achieved by humans. However, these flyovers stand tall in contrast to the poverty existing unabashedly, underneath.

These flyovers offer shelter to many homeless people who have travelled to big cities hoping to transform their lives only to realise the futility of their dreams. 

Manjeet Kaur cannot exactly tell – how old she is or how long she has lived under the busiest flyover in New Delhi, India, with her belongings in plastic bags, and her washing hanging on the railing.

Kaur was kicked out years ago by her husband’s family in the northern Indian city of Ludhiana after a quarrel over property. She boarded a bus to New Delhi with her two young sons, going first to a Sikh gurudwara, a place of worship, for free food.

With no money and no one to turn to, Kaur and her sons first settled on the pavement outside the gurudwara, marking their space among other families who lived there. Then she found a place amongst other homeless families living under the flyover.

These people have little protection from the winter’s cold or the summer heat when temperatures routinely soar above 40°C (104°F).

Kaur is one of at least 10, 000 homeless women in India’s capital, where thousands of people arrive every day from villages and small towns, looking for better opportunities.

Many end up in slums and informal settlements while others settle under bridges, flyovers, pavements, and road dividers.

Globally, at least roughly about 150 million people, or about two percent of the world population, are estimated to be homeless.

But getting an accurate handle on homelessness is difficult because of different definitions in countries, and the governments’ inability to adequately measure the phenomenon – according to Joseph Chamie, a former director of the U.N. population agency in a 2018 Reuters Report.

He concludes that governments also have a tendence to understate the problem. The causes are the same: poverty, lack of affordable housing, mental illness, alcohol and drug addiction, family breakdown, civil conflict, and environmental disasters.

He also remarks that there is no quick solution as even developed countries are encountering considerable difficulties. So, ending urban homelessness in less developed countries is unlikely.

Homeless women bear the brunt, as they face more abuse and violence on the street, but have few claims over property and limited access to shelters.

Kim, 34, from Sydney, Australia had been homeless for a dozen years after being kicked out of home at the age of 18 years. She slept in cars and on couches and became pregnant with her daughter at 21. While living in a refuge, she was assaulted by a male worker. To survive, Kim endured a series of abusive relationships, just to keep a roof over her daughter’s head.

There are endless, horrid stories of homeless people. The homeless must become a protected class. They have no rights whatsoever. The glitzy, blinding city lights hide dark secrets in its belly- the breed of homeless.


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