When you are homeless and can barely clothe your body, you have only your dignity to remind you that you are human.

You are vulnerable – socially, physically, emotionally.

This is the reason for Us being here –

You are alone - socially, physically, emotionally.

When are you are homeless and mentally ill, the world turns its back on you. You do not exist. Period.

This is the reason for Us being here –

Towards Building a Society that CARES

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Involving person in learning new skills and techniques

Iswar Sankalpa’s work with the urban homeless population with psychosocial disability earlier focused on providing basic care – through providing hygiene care, food, clothes and sometimes shelter along with providing mental health care – through medical and counselling intervention.

Slowly, the organisation moved towards creating a functional model of vocational training and skills, which can be linked to providing sustainable benefits – both economically and also by adding to the clients’ sense of self-worth and dignity. Vocational and skill building activities were carried out at both the Shelter and the Drop-in Rehabilitation Centre – focusing on women and men respectively.

  1. Shelter

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The women are first and foremost provided with complete health care post check-up and an overall focus is paid on their hygiene care, food intake and over all well-being.

Slowly, as the women start showing an interest in the activities of the shelter, and they become more functional and build a rapport with the shelter team and caregivers as well as the other women clients in the shelter, they are slowly involved in three aspects of the Shelter life –

Vocational Skills Building

The vocational unit at the Shelter teaches an array of skills to the women residents. The women along with their trainers make the following products at the Shelter:

  • Paper products like paper bags, notepads, files and folders, gift bags, cards and envelopes
  • Jewellery like necklaces, earrings, bracelets
  • Home furnishings like table mats, coasters, table runners, wall-hangings, photo frames and pen stands
  • Accessories like key chains, make-up pouches, toilet kits, and bottle holders, vases, flowers and stuffed toys
  • Bags, pouches, jholas and batuas
  • Clothes like t-shirts and petticoats
  • Was products like candles and diyas
  • Eatables like puffed rice balls, sweet coconut balls, nimki and gajja (savoury and sweet, flour based fried snacks)
  • Detergent making like laundry detergent powder
  • Gardening activities

These products are then marketed and sold at various exhibitions and the organisation’s annual event throughout the year. This helps to bring to notice this long-forgotten section of society and the possible skills they can develop when provided support. Additionally, it also provides the women with some source of income – they are given incentive for participating in vocational activities as well as when a product they have made is sold.

The participation in these activities also helps the residents to improve their motor skills and eye-hand coordination which was long neglected. It also helps them to use their creativity in providing inputs as to how a product should be made. Additionally, the learning of these skills can be replicated back in their homes in a related manner which may help them earn some income on a regular basis. For example, someone who learns how to string beads together in a necklace may use the same skills to string flowers together for garlands back in their village – which is more likely to sell there as compared to beaded necklaces.

Participation in Shelter Activities

The women are encouraged to involve themselves in the household chores which include cleaning, dusting, mopping, cooking, and washing utensils and clothes amongst other things. The women feel at home when they are able to do such household chores along with re-learning many of these skills which they had before. They are also provided by a small token incentive amount which contributes to them feeling as productive members in the Shelter contributing to its overall upkeep.

Sometimes, a woman agrees to take responsibility of a particular chore or may share it with some other residents. In these cases, they are provided with a monthly stipend for having taken on the liability of ensuring that the chore is completed regularly.

The participation in these activities helps prepare the women for similar roles back in the community or families and the provision of an incentive/stipend ensures that they are made to feel as productive and contributing members.

Participating in Specific Training Programmes

Some of the women express a motivation to learn specific skill sets which will enable them to work outside and earn a living. In such cases, we provide these women with opportunities to avail of specific training programmes like ayah training, domestic helper, and training in a beautician course and so on.

Some of the women are then employed outside and often work outside during the day and consider the Shelter as a place of residence.

 

2. Drop-In Rehabilitation Centre

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Similar activities as in the Shelter are carried out at the DIC with a few changes:

  • Given that the men live on the streets, they are not provided with the money outright but in the form of kind – for examples, during winters, a shawl/jacket is brought for the men. This is to prevent them from being subjected to violence and robbery on the streets as well as help curtail any addiction habits that are likely to develop on the streets
  • The men clients at the DIC are not provided with any formal job training, but on the other hand are often encouraged to work in a place which requires un-skilled labour – like in grocery shops as helpers. In such cases, the team often negotiates with the owner to provide them with a shelter as well in which case they slowly become responsible for their own earnings.

In addition, the men and women who express an interest are also provided with basic literacy trainings. All these activities provide the clients with an opportunity to learn new skills as well as earn some monetary incentive in the process, along with helping in their cognitive skills enhancement, motor skills and eye-hand coordination. This constantly reiterates the importance of them being functional and contributing members of the society and in turn being able to look after themselves.