The Shelter for Urban Homeless Women with Psychosocial disabilities.

Working in the community through the Outreach Programme, the Iswar Sankalpa team realized that homeless women with psychosocial disabilities who live and reside on

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the streets are very vulnerable to different kinds of abuses, and the community care model leaves them at risk of physical and sexual violence on the streets.

The Shelter for the Urban Homeless Women with Psychosocial disabilities – Project Sarbari, was founded on April 2010 in collaboration with the Kolkata Municipal Corporation. It was propelled into being based on the realisation that homeless women with psychosocial disabilities required a safe and secure place to reside for intervention to be done effectively and comprehensively.

Since its inception, Sarbari has extended shelter to 259 homeless women with psychosocial disabilities. Sarbari acts as an open shelter where the women can stay on their own free will and has a maximum capacity of 80 residents at any point of time.

The Shelter intervention focuses on medical as well as psychosocial methods. Over the past couple of years, Sarbari has been putting in great efforts towards the psychosocial habilitation of these individuals and mainstream them successfully in the society. Much emphasis has been laid on the different approaches towards the habilitation of these women in the shelter home, and based on these Sarbari is attempting to develop and maintain a wholesome model for the habilitation.


The community care model of the Outreach programme is a unique way of reaching out to the hitherto neglected population of homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities – it involved engaging the very community where these people had made their homes along with government health and welfare departments and law enforcement agencies.

Most people on the streets would keep away from the homeless persons with psychosocial disabilities because of their appearance – dirty and dishevelled, matted hair and in some cases, infections on the skin. However with Iswar Sankalpa’s intervention, slowly and steadily these persons start looking after their basic hygiene needs, caring for their appearance, slowly interacting with the community people and engaging in some rehabilitative tasks.

Though extremely happy with this turn of events, the IS team soon started realising that the homeless women with psychosocial disabilities – now having started to look presentable and on the path to well-being, started attracting unwanted male attention, who earlier stayed away from them out of fear. These women now started appealing to the anti-social male elements who did not hesitate to force themselves through physical and sexual violence and abuse.

The Supreme Court order dated 10 February 2010 and 05 May 2012 also focuses on directing State Governments and Union Territories to have night shelters in the ratio of 1 night shelter for per 1 lakh of the population in cities who have a population of more than 5 lakhs.

It was due to the development of these circumstances that Project Sarbari was born.

As Iswar Sankalpa believes in partnering with the government in all its’ programmes, we approached the Kolkata Municipal Corporation (KMC) with the need to have a space which can serve as a shelter for homeless women with psychosocial disabilities in the metropolis of Kolkata. The KMC extended their full cooperation and provided the organisation with space at 19B, Chetla Hat Road, Kolkata – 700027.

The Shelter for Urban Homeless Women with Psychosocial Disabilities was formally inaugurated on 25th April, 2010 by the then Mayor Shri Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya who was accompanied by Shri Banibrata Basu, then Joint Commissioner of Police, eminent artists Shri Ramananda Bandyopadhyay actress Koel Mullick and other dignitaries.


The first step is identification of a homeless woman with psychosocial disability in need for shelter and intervention. There are various sources of referrals for this –

– The woman maybe identified and referred by the Outreach Program

– The woman maybe identified ad referred through the Kolkata Police

– The woman maybe identified and referred by other NGOs and organisations

In case of a referral from the Outreach team, it is the team who starts building a relationship with the woman and starts negotiating with her about possible care and intervention options. Consequently, if she agrees to come to the shelter, the team completes lodges a general diary entry with the local police station before bringing them to the shelter. This officially helps to put the so far unknown woman into the system in case any missing persons report is filed by relatives and loved ones. The Shelter team follows a similar process when the referrals are from other organisations.

In case of referrals from the Kolkata Police, the police already maintain an official report on the woman before she is brought to the shelter with her cooperation.

Post identification and an entry into the Shelter programme, the primary emphasis is placed on their basic hygiene requirements, physical and mental health care and symptom reduction. The woman undergoes an overall health check-up in order to be able to streamline the intervention as per the need of the client.

The Shelter intervention focuses on a framework which help in basic life skills building, cognitive enhancement, more functionality in day-to-day living and fostering independent living. The structure of intervention addresses the following aspects –

  • Living Skills: Maintaining personal hygiene and physical care, and self help skills which helps the person in day to day living
  • Communication Skills: Emphasis on the right kind of verbal and nonverbal (especially emotional) expression and interaction
  • Social Skills: Emphasis on conducting oneself in a socially appropriate manner