Equitas Birds Nest-Extending an arm to help mainstream homeless families into slums

The Homeless families that Equitas targets are those people who sleep on pavements, outside shops, under bridges, on market stands, on streets, on drainage pipes, and so on in Chennai city. They are vulnerable to climatic disasters, unhygienic lifestyle, poor access to proper toilets and children are more vulnerable to anti-social elements, contagious diseases, early marriages, mid-school dropouts, etc.,

Homelessness is inversely proportional to several Sustainable developments. However, it inversely affects three Sustainable Development goals to great extent. SDG1 – Eradicating poverty in all its form, SDG3– Ensuring healthy lives and promoting well-being for all at all ages and SDG11 – Making cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable. 

India is a signatory to SDG and is also working towards the same. Several private organizations and NGOs are also bringing affirmative action towards the same.

One such city has a large number of homeless families in Chennai. The people face severe difficulties with regards to Shelter, Sanitation, Healthcare and more. According to a study by the Madras School of Social Work (MSSW) and the Information and Resource Centre for the Deprived Urban Communities (IRCUDC), there are about 40,000 homeless in the city and at least 90% are families that live with no access to shelters or a social security scheme. It also found that 90% are Dalits, more than 50% don’t have identity documents and 42% of the children are school dropouts.

Most homeless people work as daily wage earners making less than 200 rupees a day. They do not have any government documents like a Ration card that entitle them to benefits such as subsidized food and so on.

Equitas Birds Nest (EBN) was launched in the year 2009, as a comprehensive rehabilitation program to empower this highly vulnerable segment of homeless families. To begin with, they wanted to give them an identity. Equitas shifted identified members from the pavement to a house and provided financial assistance with regard to rent and advance for the first six months. This enabled them with address proof of residence and gave them an identity and obtain Ration cards. They were able to live under a safe roof which provided safety for them and their children. After providing safe shelter, they provide livelihood skills training for a period. These skill training help them to become entrepreneurs and the household income improves to enable them to pay the rent from the 7th month onwards thus attaining sustenance status 

When their livelihood improves these members became economically active and they began repaying small monthly amounts of the financial assistance provided by us. During the final phase, their progress is monitored in monthly meetings. Simultaneously, these members’ households were provided with access to quality healthcare and their children were enrolled in school and other of-school education provided. Scholarships are given to motivate children to continue their education. Equitas facilitates getting the Unemployed get jobs in companies that require them 

As of date, Equitas has shifted to more than 2200 families and it has observed the following changes in their lifestyle. Hygienic Lifestyle, no open defecation, Better Health; Earlier the highest education level was 8th Fail, today data shows that more than 180 have passed high school and a few girls have reached college-level education. Scholarships have been given to 2059 students from 2016 - 2022. Their stream of income has increased slowly which was not available to them in the Pavements and they live with dignity 

Case Study: Ms. Selvi, a pavement dweller who was rehabilitated through the EBN program. 

Today, she is an entrepreneur and leading a better lifestyle, inspiring others. Selvi had a difficult life when her husband died. She had 2 kids and no home to live in, she had to live on the streets making her children and her vulnerable to many anti-social elements, natural disasters, and an unhygienic lifestyle. When she was rehabilitated through the EBN initiative, she saw it as a lifetime opportunity and worked hard towards sustaining it for her kids. Having a home allowed her to safely leave her kids at home and go to multiple jobs. She was trained through skill development training and also obtained Microfinance loan assistance, which helped her to start a tailoring unit. Today she is an entrepreneur, her children are grown up and living a good lifestyle. Selvi is lifted from poverty being homeless and today, she inspires and gives hope to others to follow her lead.

EBN project’s aim was to provide sustainable livelihood to these homeless families and lead dignified lives. Equitas deployed a wide range of its Ecosystem initiatives (health & Hygiene, Skill Training, counselling, food security, education, and job placement for the unemployed) in delivering this multiple intervention mechanism to the target segment through the woman of the household within an eighteen-month period. Equitas Development Initiatives Trust also received the CSR award from the Ministry of corporate affairs, Govt of India in 2019 for slum development.

Case Study: Ms. Shanthi, Her story from a pavement dweller to an entrepreneur can be viewed here: 


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