“This is my home, attached with kitchen, toilet and bedroom,” – Mallikarjun

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Mangalore:  “This is my home, attached with kitchen, toilet and bedroom,” says Mallikarjun, pointing at the pavement on the Bejai-Kapikad Road. “My home does not have a roof unlike yours,” he added, not trying to hide the sarcasm.

Bejai-Kapikad Road near KSRTC Bus Stand is always crowded in the night with more than 300 homeless people sleeping on its pavement. As many people live on the streets near State Bank Bus Stand. Most of them are migrants from northern Karnataka and other States. They are here because Mangalore for them is a better place to survive.

Mallikarjun from Bijapur said that “family conflicts, quarrels, mental illness or alcoholism” bring them to the pavements. He was one for those who left his home due to a family conflict. His return home is uncertain.

Elusive ID proof

Another street dweller, also from Bijapur, came here only a week ago after spending time on streets in northern India, Mumbai and Bangalore, where he had “a great time”. He would neither give his name nor explain why he came to Mangalore. “My name could be Jackie Chan,” he said.

The street dwellers have no identity card and are frequently harassed by the police. One street dweller said “police phobia” and “harsh interrogation” made it difficult to get officials’ help. Ravappa applied for his inclusion in voters’ list to have an identity card, but he was asked address proof which he cannot provide.

During rainy season, which is just a month away, they always look for a work where they can get a room to sleep. Most street dwellers regularly consume alcohol and are ridiculed when they ask for help.

Though there are a couple of night shelters set up by Mangalore City Corporation, the street dwellers were not aware of their existence. MCC Commissioner Harish Kumar also finds it hard to solve the problem. “Most of these people are migrants, they move from one place to another,” he said. MCC has found that the city has some 500 to 600 homeless people.

“Daily 30 to 40 people come to stay at the temporary night shelters,” Mr. Kumar said. He said billboards have been displayed in strategic locations, but one could hardly see any.

The Supreme Court had ordered building of permanent night shelters but no work has started in Mangalore in this regard yet. There is a plan to build one such shelter but land is yet to be identified, he said.

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