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Understanding Homelessness: A Socio-Legal Analysis And The Path Out

Recently, NASA announced its intention to build homes on Mars and the moon in a project that�s spending estimated to be in billions but don�t you think that if it would build homes for people living on earth then it would have been better as there are more than 150 million people who are homeless and there might be sharp rise in the numbers after the dreadful impact of Covid 19.

If we talk of India, A country with an incredible population, as per the 2011 census, there are approximately 1.77 million people who are defined as homeless. There have been various policies since independence regarding the issue of people with inadequate housing and poverty but none of them specifically dealt with the issue of the homeless population. There is very little done for the people who are homeless with no residential status even when there is an obligation for the state under various international treaties and also even under Article 21 which is a fundamental right guaranteed by the constitution.

In the present article, the author provides a detailed overview of the problem of homelessness, its definition, causes and worldwide scenario. The author also discusses challenges faced by homeless people and also provides the author�s perspective on the ongoing debate over the criminalisation of homeless people.

In the next part of the article, the author focuses on the problem of homelessness in India, talks about schemes launched since independence, he also talks about laws, judgements that oblige states to provide adequate housing, discusses the recent committee report and its suggestions and provides insight on a current scheme launched to eradicate the problem of homelessness. In the end, the author suggests two models and suggestions for eradicating the problem of homelessness.

Just imagine in this 21st century, there are people who are so unfortunate that they even don�t have houses to live in. When the whole world is struggling with the pandemic, stay home stay safe is the message being promoted widely, there are people who even don�t have a home where they can protect themselves from coronavirus. Shockingly, there is no exact worldwide data on the number of homeless people dying because of coronavirus and no country bothers to do so.

On one side, humanity is planning to build homes on the moon or mars whereas on the other side there are millions of people who can�t afford to live under a roof. We regularly encounter scientific achievements and advancement by humans in newspapers or television but gross inequality is a topic which no one talks of.

Homelessness is a global problem and from developed to undeveloped countries, all face it. Although, October 10 has been marked as world homeless day since 2010 [1]to draw attention of stakeholders regarding this problem but so far this issue of homelessness has not attention that it should get. It is so sad that Housing is the most basic amenity for living and even people failed to get this in this era of globalization and democracy.

Now let�s talk of India, the world�s second most populous country and a welfare state with 75 years of independence. In India, there are approximately 1.8 million populations[2] who are homeless and more than 50 million people live in slums with inadequate housing.[3] On the other hand there are 2 million temples in India [4]where more than 30 million deities of gods/goddesses reside[5]. The country since independence has launched hundreds of schemes and policies to eradicate the problem of poverty but still has one of the largest populations under poverty and comes under the top 10 with the largest homeless population.

"Homelessness is a profound assault on dignity, social inclusion and the right to life. It is a prima facie violation of the right to housing and violates a number of other human rights in addition to the right to life, including non-discrimination, health, water and sanitation, security of the person and freedom from cruel, degrading and inhuman treatment."[6]

Defining homelessness
Definitions of 'homelessness' are different at different places but are central to identifying underlying causes and developing appropriate responses[7]. There is no widely accepted definition of homelessness.

Some definitions focuses on certain minimum standard of housing while others as lack of roof or the people living in streets or public places.

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Article 25, Paragraph 1) defines homelessness as the condition of people without a regular dwelling because they are unable to acquire, maintain regular, safe, and adequate housing, or lack fixed, regular, and adequate night-time residence.[8]

In 2004 the United Nations sector of Economic and Social Affairs defined homelessness as those households without a shelter that would fall within the scope of living quarters. They carry their few possessions with them, sleeping in the streets, in doorways or on piers, or in any other space, on a more or less random basis[9].

In 2015, the Institute of Global Homelessness developed a Global Framework for Understanding Homelessness on a Global Scale and defined it into 3 broad categories of people who may be considered as homeless:
  • Without any accommodation
  • living in temporary or crisis accommodation
  • Living in severely inadequate and insecure housing. [10]

World Homeless data
As per an estimate by 'Habitat for Humanity' around 150 million people are homeless worldwide as estimated in 2015 and 1.6 billion people around the world live in �inadequate shelter�. [12] As discussed earlier, there is no universal accepted classification of homeless population, different countries uses different parameters to count homeless population. Therefore, comparison is complicated as one may count as homeless in country may not be counted as homeless in another.

Nigeria, Egypt, Indonesia, India, china, Haiti are countries which accounts for world�s most homeless population [13]

Causes of Homelessness:
There are number of causes of homelessness and varies from place to place and person to person. Although, some causes like poverty, lack of affordable housing , lack of affordable healthcare, domestic violence, discrimination, family breakdown, war/violence, natural disaster, job loss or unemployment are common.[14]
  • Poverty:
    The high prevalence of poverty in a country is taken as the causal factor in determining the emergence and persistence of homeless people on the streets[15].Poverty and homelessness are directly linked with each other. Generally, a person under poverty most frequently would not be able to afford basic amenities such as housing. A country with a high poverty rate also has a high homeless population rate. The population living under poverty is often vulnerable to homelessness. For e.g. - Nigeria � it is having the highest poverty rate as well as a homeless population.[16]
  • Lack of affordable housing:
    The increasing cost of housing and living in mega -cities makes people either homeless or forces them to live in slums with poor living standards.

    For e.g. - In Mumbai approximately 60,000 people are homeless and 12 million people lives in slum. They cannot afford adequate housing but are forced to live in city because of employment.[17]
  • Lack of affordable healthcare:
    Homelessness and health care are intimately interwoven. Poor health is both a cause and a result of homelessness. [18] Health care services are very expensive and people with low income generally not able to afford them and fall prey to homelessness. For payment of medical bills, many people have to make choices between home rent and treatment which end up them homeless.
  • War/ violence:
    The country engaged in war or coup often render people homeless due to forced migration. People migrate from one place to another to save their lives as refugees and are forced to live in refugee camps with inadequate housing for years. War also destroys the homes of people making them homeless.

    For e.g. In India, More than 3 lakhs refugees are living with no proper identities and housing facilities [19] whereas in Syria, millions of people became homeless due to ongoing civil war.
  • Natural disasters:
    In the past two decades, 141 million people have lost their homes through 3,559 natural disaster events such as earthquakes, windstorms, floods, and landslides throughout the world[20]. In China between 1980 to 2000 approx 45,150,654 people became homeless due to natural disasters.[21]

Challenges faced by homeless people
  • Women, children, people with disabilities and migrant labourers are the worst affected communities due to homelessness. Homelessness is considered the root cause of poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and poor health.
  • No Access to Education:
    People without homes often has no access to education. Due to their temporary shelters, Children of homeless people have no access to educational institutions as their place of residents often changes. Also, Children experiencing homelessness lack the stability and support necessary to succeed academically.
  • Health Concerns:
    The people who are homeless often lived in places which are an unhygienic, unhealthy and inhabitable environment that makes them prone to many diseases. Homeless people are likely to experience malnutrition and even develop mental health issues.
  • Food Insecurity:
    Homeless people also face the problem of survival. Just imagine how much it is difficult for a person to survive without a home. These people fight for the most basic necessity i.e. food.
  • No Employment:
    Unemployment is both a cause and a challenge for homelessness. People who are unemployed have no source of income and find it difficult to afford adequate housing.
  • No Access to Rights:
    we have seen how homelessness makes people unemployed i.e. violates the right to work, also deny them access to education i.e. violates right to education, violates right to health and right to food, also affects their political rights as many of them even not registered to vote and so on.
  • Deprived of government welfare schemes:
    People who are homeless are also being deprived of government schemes and welfare measures as they have no access to them. The government also finds it difficult to reach this class of society.
  • Lack of will by the government and lack of awareness are mainly responsible due to which homeless people are being deprived of governmental schemes benefits.

Criminalization of Homelessness: A Solution?
Instead of providing homes to the poor, criminalizing the homeless people is the solution used by governments all around the world. The criminalization of homelessness is the growing concern because since people who are homeless are not on the street because they want to but because they don't have any other options, criminal and civil penalties are ineffective. Policies that criminalise homelessness exacerbate the issue.

As homeless people face crippling fines and fees for small traffic violations or are arrested as a result of needing to live outside, it affects their jobs and housing opportunities, educational opportunities, family health, and neighbourhoods. This is ineffective at keeping our neighbourhoods secure, and it disrupts families and communities.[22]

It is also a violation of human rights as people being deprived of their liberty and forcefully being institutionalized just because they were not having any home to live in. Criminalization programmes are often expensive in several respects, requiring significant federal funds for policing, court processing, and detention.

This fund will be used to provide healthy, secure, and affordable homes in order to stop homelessness, as well as services to help individuals who are suffering from the effects of homelessness (e.g., physical and mental illnesses including substance use disorders). Numerous surveys have shown that eliminating homelessness lowers the costs of incarceration and hospital emergency room visits.[23]

Thus, it can be easily concluded criminalizing homelessness can never be a solution.

Homelessness Crisis in India - A Topic of Great Concern
In India, Census 2011 defines homelessness as Households who do not live in buildings or census houses but live in the open on roadside, pavements, in Hume pipes, under flyovers and staircases, or in the open in places of worship, mandaps, railway platforms, etc. are treated as Houseless households.[24]

This definition is problematic in the sense that it is restricted to people living in open and public places which hides the bigger picture of inadequate housing. According to census 2011, there are approx 1.8 million [25]counted as homeless but if we go with the proposed definition of Institute of Global Homelessness which considers inadequate housing as criteria for homeless population, then there may be more than 65 million [26]people who will fall under this category.

Right to Adequate Housing � A Meaningless Right?
There are number of Fundamental rights, directive principles of state policy and treaties or conventions makes India obligatory to provide for adequate housing to women, children, persons with disabilities, migrants laborers, refugees etc. Let�s look all of them:
Sources of the Human Right to Adequate Housing and Land in International Human Rights Law

Binding Instruments:
  • Article 25(1), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
  • Article 12, Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 1948
  • Article 17, International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, 1966
  • Article 11 (1), International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, 1966
  • Article 5, International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, 1965
  • Article 14, Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, 1979
  • Article 27, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
  • Article 16, Convention on the Rights of the Child, 1989
  • Article 9, International Labor Organization Social Policy (Non-Metropolitan
  • Territories) Convention, 1947
  • General Comment No. 4 �The Right to Adequate Housing� (Art. 11 (1) of the Covenant), Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1991.
  • General Comment No. 7 �The Right to Adequate Housing: Forced Evictions�(Art. 11 (1) of the Covenant), Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights, 1997.
  • General Recommendation No XIX: Article 3 of the Convention, Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, 1995.
  • United Nations General Assembly resolution 43/181, United Nations Global Strategy for Shelter to the Year 2000, 1998.
  • Housing and property restitution in the context of refugees and other displaced persons, Sub-Commission on Human Rights resolution 2002/7.
  • Women�s equal ownership of, access to and control over land and the equal rights to own property and to adequate housing, 2005, Commission on Human Rights resolution 2005/25.
  • United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, 2006
  • Declaration on Social Progress and Development, 1969 General Assembly resolution 2542 (XXIV)
  • Article 8, Declaration on the Right to Development, 1986, General Assembly resolution 41/128
  • Principle 1, United Nations Principles for Older Persons, 1991, General
  • Assembly resolution 46/91
  • Article 21, Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, 1951
  • Vancouver Declaration on Human Settlements, United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat I), 1976.
  • The Istanbul Declaration and the Habitat Agenda, Second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II), 1996
  • Article 10, Plan of Implementation, United Nations World Summit on
  • Sustainable Development, 2002
  • Principle 18, Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement, 1998, Commission on Human Rights
  • Guideline 18, UN Comprehensive Human Rights Guidelines on Development- Based Displacement, 1997, adopted by the Expert Seminar on the Practice of Forced Evictions, Geneva
  • International Labour Organization Recommendation No. 115 concerning
  • Worker�s Housing, 1961
  • Article 43.1, International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
  • Article 51 of the directive principles of state policy obliges the state to foster respect for international law and treaty obligations. [27]
Madhu Kishwar v. State of Bihar,[28] Gramaphone Co. of India v. B.B. Pandey, 1984[29],PUCL v. Union of India[30],CERC v. Union of India[31] supports the article 51 obligation for the state to bound with international treaties and obligation

National obligation to provide for adequate housing
Nowhere explicitly it is written in the fundamental rights to provide for adequate housing for its citizens but with the number of judgments, it is interpreted:
Several important decisions explicitly demonstrate the connection between the right to housing and the right to life, as enshrined in Article 21. The right to shelter or decent accommodation is a basic human right arising from this article, according to the Supreme Court of India.

Olga Tellis v. Bombay Municipal Corp.[32]:
Also known as Pavements Dwellers Case, In the present case, The Apex Court held that the Article 21 of the Indian Constitution also includes the right to livelihood and that this right was indivisible from the right to shelter.

Avas Evam Vikas Parishad v. Friends Coop. Housing Society Ltd[33]:
The Apex Court held that the right to shelter is a fundamental right, that springs from the right to residence under Article 19(1)(e) and the right to life under Article 21.
Francis Coralie vs. Union Territory of Delhi[34]- In this judgment, it was again reiterated by the Court that The right to life encompasses the right to live in dignity and everything that comes with it, such as appropriate sustenance, clothes, and shelter.

Chameli Singh and others v. State of UP[35]:
In this case, The Apex Court Once again gave importance to the concept of right to shelter. In any civilized community, the right to life includes the rights to food, water, a healthy environment, education, medical treatment, and shelter. As a result, shelter for a human being is more than just a matter of life and limb protection. It is at home that he can develop physically, intellectually, and spiritually. In order to have easy access to his daily avocation, the right to shelter comprises appropriate living space, a safe and decent building, clean and decent surroundings, sufficient light, fresh air and water, power, sanitation, and other municipal facilities such as roads. As a result, the right to shelter entails not just the right to a roof over one's head, but also the right to all of the infrastructure required to enable one to survive and develop as a human being. When utilised as an essential requirement to the right to survive, the right to shelter should be considered a basic fundamental right....

Shantistar Builders v. Narayan Khimalal Totame[36]:
In this case, it was again reiterated by the court that the right to life would take within its sweep the right to food, the right to clothing, the right to decent environment and a reasonable accommodation to live in.

Isn�t that shocking, the list of laws/rights is exhaustive which obliges the state to provide for adequate housing then also there are millions of people homeless in our country. This questions the vision of constitution-makers and the significance of the constitution. Even after 75 years of independence, our constitution is not able to guarantee the most basic right i.e. to have shelter.

Our constitution makers had a vision for a society free of all evils, just and an equal society where everyone can enjoy liberty and can have a meaningful life. Next year we are about to celebrate 75 years of independence, do we deserve anything to celebrate when lakhs of people are homeless and crores are living in extreme poverty.

The rights mentioned in the constitution become meaningless when the state fails to provide even after 75 years. All the treaties and international obligations make no sense until they cannot be made enforceable and improves the human living standards or protects humanity.
The research the paper will only focus on homelessness as a problem for now and will try to find answers why still there are homeless people in India and what can be done.

Homelessness in India since 1981
In India, since independence homelessness is a major problem impeding its growth. We will analyze the data from the 1981 census to 2011. In 4 decades, India had rapid growth and a number of schemes were launched to solve the problem of the homeless population.

Welfare Schemes till Now Launched - A Short History of Housing Policies
There were number of schemes launched to remove the problem of homelessness and to provide people with adequate housing. Since independence, the government of India is working on policies related to homelessness. Let�s divide it into four phases
  1. 1950-1970
  2. 1970 to mid 80
  3. 1980 -2000
  4. 2000 � present

In the first phase, India was dealing with several challenges such as poverty, partition, war, separation and homelessness. Schemes such as Subsidized Housing Scheme for Industrial Workers (1952), Low Income Group Housing Scheme (1954), Middle Income Group Housing Scheme (1959) and Slum Clearance and Improvement Scheme (1956) were launched by the central government specifically focused on urban housing.

The schemes did not work well and one reason was lack of funds as at that time, India was not financially well and was a least developed economy relying solely on agriculture. Various more policies were brought but the main problem was the uniform planning and objective which was the main reason why during this phase, homelessness could not be eradicated. There was also a massively unequal distribution of land, the small zamindari class was holding hundreds of acres of land the policies also mainly focused on urban slums, not the landless homeless population.

In the second phase, there was a shift in government policy, it has realized that it cannot provide housing for all as still not financially capable of doing that therefore focused started focusing on poor sections of society only and also instead of clearing slum areas, it focused on improving them and low cost schemes like Environmental Improvement Scheme of Urban Slums (1972) and Sites and Services Scheme (1980) was launched to tackle the problem of slum proliferation.

An important step was also taken, the government created a national level Housing and Urban Development Corporation (HUDCO) in 1970. At its inception, it was envisaged as an institution that will work as the government�s nodal agency in promoting sustainable habitat development to enhance the quality of life.

Again there was no focus on homelessness, migrants from Bangladesh after the { Indo-Pak war 1972}even enlarged this problem therefore homelessness continued to grow.
In the third phase, with the new liberal policies and economy opening up for the private sector, the central government restricted its role to the improvement of slums, direct provision of housing to the weaker sections of the society and encouragement and support of housing finance institutions�

but massive corruption and scandals never allowed slums improvements. Even the responsibilities of slum improvement and weaker section housing were being tried to be pushed towards lower tiers of governments housing was declared a state subject under the ninth plan and through the 74th Constitutional amendment, made Urban Local Bodies responsible for providing services in their jurisdictions, which also included housing.

Thus, housing was never considered an important necessity by the government. Some examples of such schemes are Urban Basic Services Scheme (1986, later renamed as Urban Basic Services for Poor in 1991), Indira Gandhi Awas Yojna , Nehru Rozgar Yojna�s Scheme of Housing and Shelter Upgradation (1990) and National Slum Development Programme (1996) were launched. In this period, the Central Government�s focus shifted to facilitating the financing activities for housing rather than providing it physically on the ground, as was the norm before.

The National Housing Bank (NHB) was also created in 1987 to provide financial assistance for housing. Parallel to the creation of NHB, commercial banks and other Housing Finance Institutions were directed by the government to participate on a larger scale in housing finance activities which resulted in easy availability of housing finances for the private sector with cheap interest rates. Government agencies HUDCO and various other state-level housing boards initially designed to help the poor for housing needs were pushed to compete with private players for funds from the open market, without any shield of government�s support were failed and thus instead of giving funds to the poor, started funding large infrastructure projects to survive. [37]

Homelessness was still a problem during this phase and with the coming of private players although the economy of India had a massive boost, the homelessness problem was neglected.
In phase 4, the central government still plays the role of facilitator and if state governments want, they can have a scheme for housing of their own but cannot extra funds from the centre and private funds being incentivized.

During this period, an important scheme Rajiv Awas Yojana in 2009 was also launched to free India from slum dwellings. The scheme focused on providing property rights to slum people and improving the condition of slum areas and providing them basic amenities including such as water supply and electricity. [38]

In 2013, NULM (National Urban Livelihoods Mission) was launched to provide shelters for urban homeless people but does not have any provision for housing. 658 shelters in 18 states so far built. The scheme is criticized as it just provides for a temporary solution for homelessness.

Another scheme pradhan mantra awas yojana launched in 2015 with an objective of housing for all provide subsidies and credits for poor and slum dwellers but does not include homeless and landless people. However, this route also seems to have failed in producing desired results and hence was severely criticized.

We have seen numerous central schemes launched were failed mainly because they were not dealing with the actual issue. No scheme specifically talks of the landless homeless poor living on streets or any public place. The reason there are 1.77 million homeless people in our country because the government never made a policy or welfare measure for them. Right to adequate housing is the next step; these people in the first place lack housing at all.

Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless � National Urban Livelihood Mission
The National Urban Housing & Habitat Policy (NUHHP), 2007 aims at promoting sustainable development of habitat in the country with a view to ensuring equitable supply of land, shelter and services at affordable prices to all sections of the society. However, the most vulnerable of these are the urban homeless.

National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) aims at providing permanent shelter equipped with essential services to the urban homeless in a phased manner under the Scheme of Shelter for Urban Homeless (SUH)

Important Provisions under NULM scheme:
For the urban homeless, the shelters should be permanent all-weather shelters. Permanent community shelters for a minimum of one hundred people should be provided for every one lakh urban residents. Depending on the circumstances, each shelter might accommodate 50 to 100 people. According to the 2011 Census, the plan would be implemented in all district headquarter towns and other towns having a population of one lakh or more.

The shelters will be permanent, open all year, and open 24 hours a day, because many homeless people work throughout the night. The government of India will cover 75% of the cost of the shelters, with the state contributing the remaining 25%. This ratio will be 90:10 in the case of Special Category States (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim, Tripura, Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh, and Uttarakhand). The programme/scheme seeks to provide the availability and access to permanent shelters for the city's homeless population, including essential infrastructure such as water supply, sanitation, safety, and security.

This ongoing scheme although aims to eradicate urban homelessness but there are many drawbacks of this scheme:
  • It is only for the urban area, what about rural homelessness
  • It aims to provide community shelter which itself is problematic
  • Not gives permanent solution to homelessness [39]

Kailash � Gambhir Committee [40]
In the case of E. R. Kumar and Anr. v. Union of India and Ors[41], the supreme court in 2016 directed to set up a committee regarding the study of homelessness in India and review the policy implementation of Scheme of Shelters for Urban Homeless � national urban livelihood mission. The court had ordered the Secretary or Administrator of the State and Union territories (UT) to file an affidavit regarding the implementation of this particular scheme, which was forwarded to the Chief Secretary/ Administrator to file a collective affidavit, and in the meantime, the Ministry of Housing and Urban Poverty Alleviation was ordered by the court to find ways to achieve the policy's objectives.

Thus, under the supervision of Justice Kailash Gambhir, a committee was formed to conduct physical inspections of the shelters, to determine whether they are complying with operational guidelines, allocation/non-allocation, use and misuse of funds, and to ensure that time-bound guidelines are followed so that at least basic facilities are provided during the winter season. The committee looked through all of the statistics on homelessness in the states and union territories, as well as the number of shelter houses built, and made suggestions.

The committee found following reasons responsible for homelessness:
  • Lack of will by the States and Union Territories Administrations
  • Reluctance of States and Union Territories to Conduct Legitimate Survey
  • Poor Management of Shelters
  • Non availability of Address Proof was found to be a major impediment
  • Sub-Optimal Utilization of NULM Funds
  • Lack of Institutional Preparedness at local level i.e. Municipal Corporations
  • Lack of Coordination Amongst Planning Agencies
  • Non-Utilisation and/or Diversion/Mis- Utilisation of the Allocated Funds for the Scheme for Providing Shelters for Urban Homeless
  • Non-Availability of Land as well as High Price of Land at the Required Places for Construction of Shelters.

Some important Suggestions of the committee were:
  • Approve land for the creation of shelters under NULM.
  • Conduct city-wise homeless survey
  • Schemes specifically focusing on homelessness should be launched
  • Shelters should be built in accordance with the guidelines and should be properly maintained
  • Create awareness about homelessness
  • Engage local NGO�s and other social organizations and hand over responsibilities to them regarding maintenance of shelter homes
  • Ensure social welfare schemes reached homeless people to ensure their up-liftment
  • States / union territories should create a web portal and provide info about shelters
  • Periodical monitoring of shelters by police
  • Conduct third party audit to assess the performance of shelters
  • Helpline/helpdesk may be started in the towns

These suggestions are altogether helpful in solving the problem of homelessness but even today not implemented by the governments.

Also, United Nations (UN) Special Rapporteur on the Right to Adequate Housing, Leilani Farha had visited India in April, 2016 and has recommended strongly that the Indian policymakers should gear up and frame and implement a policy completely based on human rights and that policy should be a housing policy targeting the people living on the streets and slums in order to eradicate poverty and inequality.[42]

As discussed earlier, providing night shelters or slums is a temporary solution to homelessness which in no way helps to eradicate homelessness. Thus, India needs to change its approach. There are two different examples that can be adopted by India � Finland housing first policy and Kerala LIFE policy. Both models work on a similar approach i.e. to provide homes freely to homeless people without any precondition by the respective governments.

Another key component is financing the houses, since independence various schemes had provisions for financing the homes but they did not eradicate homelessness. Thus, financing or providing loans will not work in India as we have one of the most corrupt systems in the world. Here, the real beneficiary often does not receive the amount to build the house. What India needs to do is to provide free homes immediately to homeless people with a robust monitoring system.

Some of the suggestions given by the kailash-Gambhir committee should also be implemented such as provisions for transparency, conducting city-wise surveys to actually know the homeless population NGO monitoring, police checking, helpline for homeless people web portal etc discussed above will ensure that an actual beneficiary is awarded the home and problem of corruption and scandal which were big hurdles that can be tackled.

Two models are proposed in the upcoming part on which India can build a national strategy to eradicate homelessness.

Housing First Model
In the 1980s, a Canadian psychologist based in New York had an idea: giving people homes could be the perfect way to address the issue of homelessness. Sam Tsemberis was one of the first supporters of the Housing First concept. The concept was dismissed as absurd and unworkable but now various European countries use this model including UK, France, Denmark and Finland.

This strategy is well-known for its success in giving housing to chronically homeless persons with severe mental illness, problematic drug and alcohol use, nuisance behavior, low-level crime, extended periods of unemployment, and protracted stays in homeless shelters and on the street. Housing first is distinct from most homelessness programmes because it offers homeless people with secure independent or communal housing right away. This means that Housing First provides �housing first' to homeless people before doing anything else.

How housing first policy works - Finland model
Finland is the only EU country where homelessness decreased by more than half in the last 10 years and the credit was given to the government�s housing first initiative. The housing first theory implies a philosophical change in the conventional solution. According to the theory, rather than being an end objective, housing is regarded as a first step, a foundation, and a prerequisite for the beginning and completion of the social rehabilitation phase.

It recognizes housing as a most basic and human right and a means to end numerous social problems. Under this scheme, homeless people are first identified and without any precondition, provided with permanent homes rather than shelters or temporary rental hostels.[43]

Finland housing first model was adopted by the government in 2007 and since then policies and schemes based on this approach have been introduced and have got immense success in eradicating homelessness. Along with Y foundation[44], the local governments are providing housing units to homeless people. The cost estimate for the action plan is �78 million and more than 5000 dwellings were built.

Kerala Model � Life Mission [45]
There is no denying the fact that Kerala is one of the most developed states in India, even then it has a homeless population. Thus, in 2017, the state government of Kerala decided to launch a scheme that combined many other welfare schemes with an aim to eradicate homelessness completely from the state. This scheme is (LIFE) Livelihood Inclusion and Financial Empowerment.

The scheme objective is to build 4.3 lakh homes in 5 years and provide everyone in Kerala with a home that is a most basic need. It is providing approx 4 lac assistance to build a house. The person who earns less than 3 lakhs and is a resident of Kerala is eligible for this scheme. The other criteria include landless people, people who are not able to construct their houses and also the people living in temporary settlements.

The LIFE project will be implemented in four phases: completion of previously completed and unfinished houses, housing financing for homeless people, rehabilitation assistance for landless homeless, and renovation of non-residential housing. Life Mission is providing Rs. 400000 / - as housing assistance to the beneficiaries.[46]

In the 1st phase, the houses which were although sanctioned under various other housing schemes but were still incomplete due to various reasons such as lack of funds were completed first. More than 54000 houses were built in this phase.

In the second phase, the government included the people who own land but have not constructed homes due to financial stress. Nearly, 91,147 beneficiaries are included under this category and until December 2020, more than 70,000 individuals were handed over their homes.

In the third phase, people who have no land and no home i.e. are completely homeless and lives in temporary settlements were included and more than 1 lakh people were identified.
The scheme is applaudable because it also includes a completely homeless population and aims to provide home completely free without any terms and conditions. The scheme uses local governments to identify the homeless population and provides for online as well as an offline procedure for application.[47]

The objective of this paper is to highlight an issue with full analysis that is of extreme significance but is widely ignored. There are millions of people all around the world who are homeless but very little has been for this section. These people are forced to live in extreme circumstances and are bereft of even basic human necessities and have to fight each day just to maintain a minimum standard of living. It is to be noted that human rights, democracy, secularism, equality are just utopian words for them that are far away from reality.

The right to Adequate Housing is a human right that has been provided in the number of treaties and international conventions to oblige states to ensure that no citizens in their countries remain homeless. But what we see is that there are millions of people who have no roof above them and are forced to survive in temporary dwellings.

India with a homeless population of 1.77 Million (census 2011) stands among the top 10 countries with the most number of homeless people. It is estimated that actual figures of the homeless population might be far more than the Census 2011 figures as there is a large number of people who are not counted as they may be migrants, refugees, etc. It is to be noted that people living in slums are not counted as homeless in India even though their housing is inadequate and contrary to universal criteria.

The author of this paper has provided a detailed overview of the problem of homelessness in India with the analysis of schemes launched till now. It should be noted that the current scheme i.e. National Urban Livelihoods Mission (NULM) has serious flaws that need urgent attention and also the Kailash Gambhir committee recommendations need to be dealt with seriously and the two models proposed i.e. Kerala Model and Finland Model if implemented can bring a significant change regarding the problem of homelessness.


  2. Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Registrar General of India, Houseless population without homes, CENSUS 2011
  3. A View into Homelessness in India, The Borgen Project,(April 29 2020), (22 June 2021).
  4. Two Million Temples in India, Namaste Retreats India, (August 14 2018), (22 June 2021)
  5. Id
  6. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing(A/HRC/43/43, para.30)(march 2020)
  7. Philip Lynch, Begging for Change: Homelessness and the Law, 26 MELB. U. L. REV. 690(1 December 2002)
  8. Universal Declaration of Human Rights Article 25, Paragraph 1
  9. Principles and Recommendations for Population and Housing Censuses, Sales No. E.98.XVII.8 United Nations 1998 Paragraph 1.328
  10. Institute of Global Homelessness 2014,
  12. Countries with maximum homeless people, yahoo finance (June 1 2020) last visited (June 22, 2021)
  13. Singh, Nishikant & Koiri, Priyanka & Shukla, Sudheer,Signposting invisibles: A study of the homeless population in India. (2018) Vol. 3. 179-196. 10.1177/2397200918763087
  14. Fazel S, Geddes JR, Kushel M. The health of homeless people in high-income countries: descriptive epidemiology, health consequences, and clinical and policy recommendations. Lancet. 2014;384(9953):1529-1540,doi:10.1016/S0140-6736(14)61132-6
  15. Id
  16. FSG Mumbai ,Informal Housing, Inadequate Property Rights Understanding the Needs of India�s Informal Housing Dwellers, Dec 2016
  17. O'Connell, J., Lozier, J., and Gingles, K. Increased Demand and Decreased Capacity: Challenges to the McKinney Act's Health Care for the Homeless Program, 1997. Available from the National Health Care for the Homeless Council, P.O. Box 68019, Nashville, TN 37206 8019; 615/226-2292
  18. Maninder Das,India Is Home To Over 3 Lakh Refugees From More Than 30 Countries Including US And UK, India TIMES, (Oct 30 2017) (lat visited 28 june 2021)
  19. Roy Gilbert, Doing More for those who became Homeless by Natural Disasters, The Disaster Management Facility, World Bank,(2001) pg 1.
  20. This data is drawn from EM-DAT: The OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database Universit� Catholique de Louvain, Brussels, Belgium.
  21. Fischer P.J. (1992) The Criminalization of Homelessness. In: Robertson M.J., Greenblatt M. (eds) Homelessness. Topics in Social Psychiatry. Springer, Boston, MA.
  22. Id
  23. Ministry of Home Affairs, Office of the Registrar General of India, Houseless population without homes, CENSUS 2011
  24. Id
  25. A View into Homelessness in India, Supra, 3
  26. India Const. art. 51,
  27. (1996) 5 SCC 125,
  28. 1984 (2) SCC 534
  29. 1997 (3) SCC 433
  30. (1995) (3) SCC 42
  31. (1985) 3 SCC 545]
  32. 1995 Supp (3) SCC 456
  33. AIR 1981 SC 746, at 753
  34. (1996) 2 SCC 549 132
  35. 1990) 1 SCC 520
  36. Renita D Souza, Housing poverty in urban India: The failures of past and current strategies and the need for a new blueprint, ORF, (March 2019)
  37. Id
  38. NULM (National Urban Livelihoods Mission),2013,Ministry of Housing and Urban Affairs
  39. Kailash Gambhir Committee,2017
  40. 2016 SCC OnLine SC 1256
  41. Supra 6
  42. Nicholas Pleace, Housing First, European Observatory on Homelessness
  43. Action Plan for Preventing Homelessness in Finland 2016�2019, Government of Finland
  46. Rikitha K Murthy, LIFE Mission, a housing project in Kerala, magicbricks,(Dec 9, 2020), (last visited July 21 2021).
Written By: Rishi Saraf - 2nd Year Student At National Law University Odisha

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