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   Home >> Library index >> Homeless >> NGO lends homeless in city a helping hand 
NGO lends homeless in city a helping hand 
By Ashley D’Mello/TNN 

Mumbai: A few years ago, there were around 38,000. Today, there are nearly one lakh homeless in the city. “The problem of the homeless is even greater than that of slum dwellers and pavement dwellers as people in both these groups have a place to live while for the homeless this is still a luxury,’’ said Abhishek Bharadwaj, a fellow of Action Aid, one of the NGOs which has taken up the cause of the homeless and is funding groups to work with the homeless in Mumbai and helping them live a life of dignity under a shelter with access to medial aid. 
T we n t y - s eve n - year-old Ajay Kumar from Patna, who does odd jobs in the city and sleeps on the streets of Rathee Bunder at Mahim, is one of the people the NGO has helped. Earlier, he was often picked up by the police. On late Tuesday night, he was one of the people helping out with street plays that a troupe of activists led by Bharadwaj put up in different parts of the city to sensitise the public about homeless people. The plays are a part of a programme Mumbai For Change sponsored by Action Aid and the Tata Institute of Social Sciences. 
“We are working at three levels,’’ said Bharadwaj. “One is to create a cohesive and active group of homeless people at locations where they live, two, create awareness among the public about the magnitude of the problem and three, try and get the state organisations to formulate policies in favour of the homeless.’’ 
“We hope to start a group here too, like the one we have at Mahim,’’ he said at a street play at the chowk outside Crawford Market, which is home to over 100 homeless people. “The homeless contribute to the city’s economy by taking up manual jobs like those of dishwashers and waiters in small restaurants, luggage carriers, roadside vendors, restaurant boys and odd job men.’’ 
However, most suffer from a feeling of worthlessness often driving them to depression. “Most of them suffer from problems of identity. They are often branded as criminals by the police and are treated harshly by society,’’ said Bhardwaj who has been working with the homeless for the past two years. “They also suffer from a number of health-related problems as they cannot access health care and safe drinking water,’’ he added.