Note: Municipal School
Rooms as Night Shelter
As the need increases to be able to provide a safe and secure
shelter for the night for adolescents entering the city with no
support systems, especially girls, the availability of such shelters
is decreasing. The economics
of the housing market of Mumbai makes private rental to provide
such space financially prohibitive.
Provision of space by the Municipal Corporation of Greater
Mumbai (MCGM) in the form of availability of rooms in municipal
schools could provide a viable alternative.
Saathi is a registered development
agency (since 1997) working primarily with youth living on the streets
and runaway adolescent girls and the various issues that are a part
of their struggles. Issues
of health, vocational training, education, and psycho-social support
are addressed as a part of these projects.
With the learnings and expertise gained through the projects,
the organization has expanded to include being a leading organization
in the coalition efforts to establish minimum standards of institutional
child care in Maharashtra through Quality Institutional Care and
Alternatives for Children (QIC&AC).
Saathi also works with interventions with a local pavement
community in Mumbai especially in bringing education to the girl
children, works to meet children as they arrive at Mumbai Central
and help them return to their families before they are socialized
to life on the streets, and interventions with communal violence-affected
children in Ahmedabad.
Saathi Girls Project
The Girls project began in 1999 as a response
to the dearth of organizations working specifically with the runaway
adolescent girl (aged 14-24).
Very little was known about why they left home, what their
needs were, or how best to assist them.
Over the last six years, Saathi has been able to find answers
to these questions. We
now understand that they leave for a variety of reasons; they are
sold by their caretakers, they are mentally ill and either abandoned
or wander from home, are asked to leave, have eloped, or are seeking
employment. The reasons
are as varied as the girls.
Eight to ten girls arrive at Mumbai Central Train
Terminus every month from across India.
They arrive in the city with no support system, little to
no resources, and are immediately faced with risks.
There are a lot of problems that these girls face, the most
significant one is their being seen as a sex object and repercussions
surrounding it. Early
intervention at this stage plays a great role in her going back
to her family if that is an option possible. Being on the street
even for a few days and having had some negative experiences leads
to a problem of being accepted back in families.
With few other options, her hopes and dreams become the daily
struggle of existence.
An holistic approach was developed to work with
the girls. They come
to the organization through outreach efforts conducted at Mumbai
Central train station, referral through the wide network established
at the station made up of station stakeholders such as coolies,
walas, boys living at the station, and the Greater Railway
Police Force and Railway Protection Force.
They are also referred by other NGOs.
The girls participate in activities at the Saathi Day Centre
including counseling, vocational training, nonformal education,
participation in Kria, the Income Generation Program, sponsorship
for formal education, recreation, and other programs in addition
to general amenities, nutrition, and medical assistance.
Repatriation plays a significant role and has assisted hundreds
of girls to return to home.
Recognizing the perils of the street, night shelter is also
provided to allow for 24 hour safety of the girls.
In addition to the direct project work, Saathi acts as the
nodal organization for the Quality Institutional Care and Alternatives
for Children (QIC&AC) campaign.
Through joint efforts of the project and QIC&AC, we work
very closely with the Children’s Home, referring cases back and
forth and consulting on cases.
We believe finally that the NGO’s role is limited to running
pilot programs that can be replicated by the State as it meets its
responsibility to its citizens.
of Night Shelter
Shelters run by various NGOs across Mumbai typically
have a cut off age of 14-16 years old, barring Saathi’s project
participants from eligibility due to the fact that our client group,
ranging from 14-24 years old, is beyond the shelter’s age scope.
Each shelter is also under considerable strain in resources
to meet the demand, making it difficult to procure a sleeping space
for each girls as needed. While
Saathi has explored the options of maintaining its own shelter via
lease of a private property (ie, a flat), the cost of housing is
such that it becomes prohibitive for an NGO to meet the financial
With partner organization’s shelters reaching
maximum capacity, it is an ever-increasing challenge to find space
for night shelter referrals.
Saathi is now facing a shelter crisis with availability of
beds inadequate for the number of girls with whom we are in contact.
If Night Shelter is not procured, the project will be forced
to limit its outreach and referral acceptance, leading to adolescent
girls entering the city to fend for themselves and face extraordinary
Municipal School Rooms for Night Shelter
Saathi currently has allocation of space at Agripada
Municipal School for its central administrative office and the Day
Centre for the Girls Project.
Saathi would like to propose to the MCGM that space for 25
adolescent girls for night shelter be made available via rooms in
a Municipal School as a pilot project of how the MCGM and NGOs could
work together to solve this challenge.
As has been the practice in the past in maintaining
girls at various night shelters, Saathi staff would be present at
all times, providing supervision and handling any situation that
could occur. The project
team would conduct regular meetings with school administrators to
address any issues or challenges which may arise.
With the school’s gate locked at night, the safety of the
girls is ensured from predatory elements.
Access to the gate lock would be provided to Saathi to handle
any entry or exit in a controlled manner and to facilitate any emergency
evacuation, if needed.
Aesthetic control of the space would be requested
to ensure freedom of maintenance and to provide a pleasing environment
that is conducive to the girls’ participation and sense of well-being
while in Saathi’s custody.
Saathi currently provides a day centre for girls.
The night shelter pilot project would extend the protection
to girls by another 12 hours, allowing for 24 hour shelter/protection.
A night shelter to be hosted in a Municipal School
is an option for handling the need for a crisis shelter.
For a longer term shelter, we would like to explore any other
MCGM structures that may be available which we could renovate and
use with those undergoing an extended rehabilitative process.
State, and by extension the Municipal Corporation, has a responsibility
to the public for its safety.
As the city of Mumbai continues to draw new individuals on
a daily basis, the ability to cope with the overbearing demands
is a constant strain on municipal resources.
Through a partnership between Saathi and MCGM to conduct
this pilot project, a replicable solution can be sought which could
allow the Civil Sector to better complement the efforts of the municipality.