Helping the homeless
Jeevan Aadhar Seva Sanstha works for homeless adults in Mumbai so that they can live with dignity and peace, Shukti Sarma reports
It’s been almost 18 months since Sandip Parab, secretary of Jeevan Aadhar Seva Sanstha (JASS), applied for water supply connection for his centre for destitute patients at Khar in Mumbai, to no avail. “It is very difficult; this is a temporary centre for destitute and abandoned patients who are released from hospitals,” says Mr Parab, “we have to regularly dress their wounds, maintain hygiene and provide them with safe drinking water. So we pump water from the tank in the colony.”
But lack of water supply hasn’t stopped Mr Parab and his team from carrying on their work of providing care for homeless adults in the city. Mr Parab started JASS in 2007, after working for numerous other NGOs for seven years. He had earlier worked mainly with street children. “I realised that many shelters are available for children and old people, but there is none for adults,” he says. With the aim of caring for destitute adults, Mr Parab and his friends started JASS, and spent the initial seven months under the Santacruz flyover.
“There was no funding,” Mr Parab recalls, “even now, we are short of funds. We shifted from Santacruz to Khar two years ago. Here, we have a problem with water connection.” With years, Mr Parab’s team has built up credibility and now they get significant support from the local police and other charitable organisations that refer patients to them and help in rehabilitation efforts. The police also help them trace the families of destitute, and with JASS, have even arranged some workshops. JASS runs a day-care centre, a recuperating centre for destitute patients and a shelter for old people.
Till date, JASS has assisted 345 patients. “We provide long-term care; not just basic first aid,” Mr Parab says. The primary job for JASS’s day-care centre is to provide treatment to the ailing destitute. So, every day, its volunteers go out on the streets and locate those in need of treatment and get them admitted to hospitals. “Homeless people are not treated with dignity. Often, after getting discharged from hospitals, they have no place to go. Even patients whose families we can trace back are abandoned. So we bring them to our karwar centre at Khar, where they can stay until they recover,” Mr Parab says.
For destitute senior citizens, JASS has a shelter called Anand Ashram in Kudal in Sindhudurg district (Maharashtra), which provides stay for lifetime. It engages them in productive activities like gardening and handicrafts. The garden produce and the crafts products are taken to nearby market for sale. JASS also works for rehabilitation of the discharged patients and makes an effort to find placements for them which is not easy. The destitute not only suffer from diseases like HIV or AIDS and develop multiple harmful addictions; often, their behaviour is non-cooperative.
JASS also conducts training courses for social workers in various parts of Mumbai. Many of those who take this para-professional course become volunteers for the organisation later. “Apart from our former students and patients, we don’t get volunteers. No one wants to get their hands dirty for the homeless,” Mr Parab says.
With no government or corporate support, JASS faces many problems, but the task has its own rewards. “There was a woman who left her children and came to Mumbai to earn a living. Naïve and without friends, she faced a lot of problems. After an accident, she had to have both legs amputated. The police asked us for help. She couldn’t tell us anything about her address. We finally located her family, and the day we landed with her at the village train station, she broke down on seeing her children. She never thought that they will be united. What more could I ask for?” Mr Parab asks warm-heartedly.
JASS’s activities have spread beyond the city. Mr Parab has plans to start a well-equipped centre for homeless children with special needs. Apart from volunteering, one can donate financially to JASS. All donations are exempt under Section 80(G) of the Income Tax Act.
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