What Little More Can We Do to Help the Homeless People this Winter!

Shared few years back on my Facebook timeline! I feel the relevance and hence sharing with you all (unedited)!

This time in Delhi is extremely cold and everyone feels it. As per some reports, in 2014-15, more than 450 people died due to cold in North India. But is it actually low temperature that kills people?

I do not think so.

No one dies of low temperature. People die due to lack of food, clothes and shelter. People die because we do not know how to help each other in need. If a rich person meets a car accident near a slum area, the people in the area will ensure that he is taken to hospital. If a homeless person dies of cold on the street, all those enjoying the luxury ride will hardly give a thought. If you ask them why they did not act, they will say it is the duty of the government, not theirs. This is true most of the time. You may remember the incident that happened few years back when a pregnant woman gave birth to a child on a street of Delhi and no one helped her. She almost died!

What I believe is if we are ready to help each other, then we can save many lives and transform the city into a truly caring one.

On the morning of 24th December, 2015, I was wondering how I could help the homeless people in Delhi and contribute my bit to make them a little warm in this winter. I literally jumped out of my chair and immediately called up a close friend. The moment I told him this idea, he was in. In the evening, we started knocking every door of our residential building. We politely asked them for old/unused clothes which are still wearable and in good condition. In the beginning, we got nothing. Some people did not open their doors even when we told what we were for. But there were also people who contributed and encouraged our effort. Some people even had their old clothes collected in case someone came or asked. Some told us to come back the next day. We went back the next day and people generously contributed.

I had already done a background study of some NGOs that work for homeless people in Delhi. I also thought on how to distribute it ourselves. Though too idealistic, I wanted to distribute the clothes to homeless people on the streets directly or to people in the slum area and wanted to see the smiles on their face.

So on the night of 25th December, we hired a van and went to the office of Mother NGO and one Ashram (Nirmal Hriday, Majnu Ka Tila). Both the offices were closed. Actually, we talked to one of the representatives of Mother NGO before going there. He did not inform us whether the office would be closed. We also presumed that since they worked for homeless people, they would be open round the clock. For Nirmal Hriday Ashram in Majnu Ka Tila, the gatekeeper of the Ashram did not let us talk to the people of the Ashram since it was late and we were asked to hand over the clothes to him or take back with us. We took the clothes with us.

Undeterred, we considered it an opportunity to directly go to the slum area and try our luck. We went to a slum area near a bridge few meters from the Ashram. There we started distributing the clothes. But due to lack of manpower and limited resource, we could not distribute all the clothes (My friend, the driver and me alone would not be able to manage the crowd). We were afraid that we might create a chaos. When resources are limited and people also know it, chances are that they will compete to grasp it and this is mostly true when the things they are competing for are things they do not have and badly need.

We came back disappointed. The next day, on 26th December, we went to Mother NGO’s office and handed the clothes to Mr. Harish Massey, a representative of the NGO. We were not given any receipt but we took a snap with him.

From what we have experienced, I think that the Government of Delhi, the bureaucracy and the common people can do a lot. The civil societies and NGOs are doing their bit.

As for the Delhi Government, it can launch an initiative like a Youth Leadership Program where young people or students can apply for an internship with the Government to help the homeless. The interns can organize into three-four groups in every locality and collect old/unused clothes as well as food. We can safely presume that every household in Delhi has some old/unused clothes that are unnecessarily occupying their cupboards. They are never going to wear these clothes again. These clothes can make people in need warm. These clothes can save many lives. Many people in Delhi waste a huge quantity of food. University Hostels also do the same. People can be organized to collect the good food to distribute to the hungry and starving people in the street. In this way, it will be an opportunity for the youth to serve the people more or less directly and many lives can also be saved. The government can reward the interns with certain incentives to encourage them. For many people, serving the people might be a reward itself.

The Government can do this by joining hands with NGOs. The collected clothes and food can be handed over to NGOs like Goonj, Uday Foundation, Mother NGO and many other organizations, and these organizations can distribute the clothes and food to the people.

Individual efforts are very limiting. It can be effective when an organization or the Government which has the manpower and resources back individual initiatives and efforts. I personally believe that there are many young people who want to serve the poor and the needy, who want to contribute their bit for a better world for everyone, who are ready to act, given the opportunity.

My friend is a student. I am a student. We could not spend more time. We don’t have a lot of money. All that we did was that we spent three days effectively. In those three days, we could collect a good quantity of clothes. We spent only Rs. 300/- for transport. Yet, we were super happy for what we could do to help homeless people. It may make 20 people warm. Out of hundreds, that’s a very tiny number. However, even if we could make only 2 people warm, we would still do it. The lives of those two counts.

Delhi has a population of more than 16 million and the homeless people account for roughly 50 thousand. Even if one out of hundred people in Delhi contributes one clothe, no people in the city would feel cold, no people in the city would die because of cold.

PS. 1. We got two more small bags of clothes after the photo was taken.
2. We donated the clothes to Mother NGO because the organization is working with the Government of NCT Delhi and sound credible. We earlier contacted Goonj and Uday Foundation through phone calls but we could not reach them.