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A Messiah For The Homeless In Kerala

DM Kozhikode S Seeram Sambasiva Rao provided shelter homes to the needy during the Covid19 pandemic. His initiative has helped thousands of homeless migrant workers of the state of Kerala. He has also provided rehabilitation options for the workers.
Indian Masterminds Stories

The Covid 19 pandemic brought unimaginable harships to the migrant workers who were living far away from their homes in other states. When the nationwide lockdown struck, lakhs of workers started walking back towards their villages as strict lockdown imposition had rendered them penniless, and even begging was not an option because the streets were deserted. Most of them had become homeless and were dying of hunger if not of the coronavirus. Under such circumstances, Kerala became one of the first states in the country to provide relief to the people who were left homeless, when the District Collector of Kozhikode Seeram Sambasiva Rao set up the Udayam Charitable Society to establish and run four shelter homes in East Hill, Mankavu, Vellimadukunnu, and Chevayur.

IAS officer S Seeram Sambasiva Rao

‘NAMMUDE KOZHIKODE’

To provide shelter homes to the street dwellers under the state’s ‘Nammude Kozhikode’ project for development was already a goal of the 2012-batch officer.

“Way before COVID-19 hit India, we conducted multiple visits to railway stations, bus stands, public parks, and more to analyze the situation of the homeless. The majority of them were migrant workers from North India who were working as wage laborers and domestic help. We told them about giving them a shelter home but they refused. It was hard for them to believe that the government was going to make efforts for them. After that attempt failed, we got another opportunity during the lockdown,, and this time the situation was different,” Mr. Rao had remarked in an interaction with media.

As soon as the pandemic struck, the officer tried sending back as many people as he could to their home states. The remaining ones were shifted to a temporary residential camp until permanent shelter homes were ready. 

The campus of the shelter home (PC: Better India)

REHABILITATING THE NEEDY

Thousands of workers and the homeless were provided meals and were groomed for well-being through haircuts, surgeries, counseling, medical check-ups, etc. The ones who did not have ID cards were given new ones. A literacy program, ‘Jnanodayam’, and certification exams were also conducted.

The goal was to not just provide accommodation but also help them get their dignity and stable income back. Through skill and vocational training, more than a hundred people got jobs in restaurants, construction sites, etc. Some of them even moved out from the shelter home to an accommodation provided by their employers. If it weren’t for this initiative, the spread of coronavirus would have posed a serious challenge among the homeless.

Workers receiving medical check-up

FUNDING FOR THE CAUSE

The District Administration made use of the combination of disaster management funds, CSR funds, and donations for the initiative. An average amount of Rs. 4000 was utilized for the purpose of spending on each person for food, medical needs, and training.

To make this initiative sustainable, Mr. Rao deliberately chose to make the district collector the chairman of the Udayam. “I didn’t want such a noble cause to end due to the transferring process. So, whoever takes the position of collector will have to continue this. Udayam is also an umbrella organization that coordinates with different shelter homes across the district to ensure further rehabilitation of the homeless,” stated the officer.

The officer’s noble initiatives not only provided shelter to the migrant workers but also helped them to stand up on their feet again and begin life afresh post lockdown.


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