Agra: The homeless in Agra have a new refuge to escape the biting cold this winter a night shelter opened by voluntary organisation Sri Nathji Nishulk Jal Sewa on the city's MG Road.

The shelter, which is the first among dozens of such dwellings the organisation plans to open in the city, is located outside the new emergency ward of SN Medical College. The facility, inaugurated on Saturday, offers a bed, a quilt and the warmth of a bonfire to those staying.

"Every winter we open a dozen such 'rain baseras' (night shelters) at busy road crossings or outside stations or bus stands, to provide free stay for the night with quilts and beds. A bonfire is lit outside to keep inmates warm," Bankey Lal Maheshwari, chief of Sri Nathji Nishulk Jal Sewa, told reporters.

"Earlier we used to distribute free blankets. But we found the blankets were later resold in the market. About 10 years ago, we started opening shelters and found them more useful for homeless." Maheshwari said a large number of people arrive in the city by late night trains or buses and they have no place to go. "The night shelters come to their rescue," he said.

In the summer season, the organisation provides free drinking water to the public through a network of water kiosks.   "Although this organisation has no formal structure and is not  registered, public donations help keep it running," said Rajan Kishore, an associate of Maheshwari. The Agra Municipal Corporation has been citing resource crunch for not being able to provide shelters to the homeless.


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