With the official capacity of Delhi's 221 night shelters at around 17,000, it's barely enough to accommodate even half of the national capital's homeless population, as per the 2011 census.
Given the intense winter, the shortage of space at these shelters is causing human congestion as well as other issues. While the stretched-at-seems shelter homes are feeling the heat due to the bone-chilling winter, homeless are only demanding more and better facilities.
The number of severe cold days in the national capital has made it the coldest December in a century after 1997. A 'code red' warning has been issued for Delhi and neighbouring areas by the India Meteorological Department (IMD) for Sunday, as the cold wave conditions are persisting in north India.
In such a situation, the care-takers of these shelters are trying their best to accommodate as many as possible, at times, even by resorting to 'juggad'.
"Despite the official capacity being 40, we have only 20 beds right now. We are trying to shelter as many as possible homeless by joining available beds and using spare blankets as beds," the caretaker on duty of a tightly-packed shelter home (code number 146) near the Panchsheel Garden, Shahdra, told IANS.
"We require as many 40 beds, but have only 20. Even the mattresses have been provided recently. We need thick quilts as everybody requires two-three blankets each due to the chill," said the care-taker of a shelter home in Seemapuri, east Delhi.
In case of women destitute, the situation is worse. According to data from the Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board (DUSBIN), which runs these shelter homes, the number of beds for women is just a little over 1,000.
According to some estimates, over 10,000 homeless women are in the national capital.
"I have not taken bath for the last 10 days as the shelter lacks the facility for hot water, which becomes a must in this bone-chilling winter," said Priya talking to IANS at the women's shelter house near ISBT in Anand Vihar.
"We have just 60 blankets right now," said the caretaker on duty at the Akshardham shelter home, though the board outside claimed availability of around 100 blankets.
Though the private sector and non-government organisations too chip in to protect the homeless by making their own arrangements, the efforts still fall short of the demand.
The homeless, according to the government, are those who "don't live in buildings or census houses, but in the open on pavements, in hume pipes, under flyovers and staircases, near the places of worship, or railway platforms."
As per the 2011 census, 0.28 percent (31,000 approx) of Delhi 1.10 crore population were homeless. It could have crossed the 1 lakh mark in recent times, say some experts.