The street children exist at stations and highway overpasses in Mumbai always dwelling on the fringe. They are on the streets because they have run away from an unhappy home or rural poverty or are orphans that live as part of an extended family on the pavements and streets of Mumbai.
Some children are part of organised gangs that beg, sing and perform, clean trains, pick pockets, steal or peddle drugs. Almost half are self-employed.
They sell flowers or other goods, work as rag pickers, at tea stalls, as porters and loaders, on catering assignments, as hawkers or other kinds of casual work. Most work long hours – 10 to 12 hours a day.
Snehasadan is an established and well known organization in the Mumbai community. Over the 49 years that Snehasadan has been working with the homeless children of Mumbai, the process of engaging with street children has changed and modified. However, essentially there is no cut and dry rule. Each child is different. Their history is unique and as such the Snehasadan social workers treat each child on a case by case basis.
When a new child arrives at a railway station, most of the permanent station dwellers will inform the new child about Snehasadan. Railway staff also work in conjunction with Snehasadan in providing information to and on vulnerable children.
The organization has two venues known as Contact Centres that act as centres for social workers to work directly in the field with the children. The centers are located at the Borivali and Chatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) railway stations.
Each centre essentially is just a small room, as most of the staff time is spent in the field, working with individual children. Snehasadan employs trained social work staff. They work with the community to identify homeless children, work towards family repatriation, counselling and finding a foster home at Snehasadan if the homeless child does so choose.
Amchi Kholi (CST)
Inaugurated on 1st April 1989 it is a contact centre from where children are referred to Snehasadan or other institutions suitable for them. The Central Railway has provided this place in the Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (C.S.T.) premises. The Women Social Service Centre (W.S.S.C.) has collaborated to give support to this centre and it has been renamed as Bal Ashraya. About 20 to 25 children drop in at this center to avail of the facilities provided there. Initially the social workers speak to them and find out why they are on the street or station. They are slowly counselled to become aware of the various opportunities open to them to enhance their future and to quit the insecure life on the street.
Inaugurated on August 25th 1999, this centre is located just outside the Borivili station on the East. It caters to children mainly coming from the North of India, and children from troubled families that have made the platforms their homes.