THE CITY IS OUR HOME - The spatial dimensions of urban homelessness Nizamuddin Basti, Delhi
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An urge to understand how the large and vulnerable homeless population copes in urban space without the refuge of even rudimentary shelter was the focus area for this research. Towards this for two months in Nizamuddin Basti, Delhi in the course of the field work for this research I observed and documented how the homeless men, women and children engaged with their environments in their day to day life as they coped with the imminent eviction threat posed by the development schemes for the upcoming international sports event to be hosted in Delhi, the Common Wealth Games. When seen in relation to other users in the Basti their specific challenges in accessing urban space related to their particular constraint i.e lack of a shelter were highlighted. A related concern was to understand the underlying reasons for the near invisibility accorded in urban policy and planning in India to a glaringly visible urban phenomenon. The point of departure of this research was an abiding interest on my part to understand and address the challenges creating inclusive urban environments. As Don Mitchell stresses in the ‘Right to the City’ the demand for the right to inhabit the city “ requires housing as a precondition but it also requires even more”- the right to inhabit urban space and the right to control rather than be victims of economic policy (2003,pp222). Following from this the overall development objective for my research from which the research questions followed was To create urban environments that are socio‐spatially inclusive of urban citizens including those who experience homelessness. Research question - What are the spatial dimensions of use and agency for the urban homeless? I answer the main research question through the field observations in the Basti through the following sub questions - How do the homeless perceive space? How do their daily activities link them to the space they occupy? - Who controls the spatial access of the homeless and how is this control enforced? - What is the effect of disruption of spatial dislocation on the homeless?