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  Home >> Municipal Schools >> Concept Note: Municipal School Rooms as Night Shelter


Concept Note:  Municipal School Rooms as Night Shelter  

Abstact:  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.  

About Saathi

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.  

Challenges 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 requirements.   

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 risk.  

Proposal: 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.  

Discussion Points

1.      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. 

2.      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.  

In Conclusion

The 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.         

It is one of the beautiful compensations of this life that no one can sincerely try to help another without helping himself. --Charles Dudley Warner