AP PHOTOS: New Delhi’s homeless shiver in biting cold

Jan 1, 2023, 7:37 AM | Updated: Jan 2, 2023, 4:32 pm
Homeless people sleep in the open under an overpass on a winter night in New Delhi, Dec. 28, 2022. ...

Homeless people sleep in the open under an overpass on a winter night in New Delhi, Dec. 28, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. The harsh winter is blamed for killing scores of homeless people and leaving tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

              An elderly woman lives on the pavement outside a dilapidated shelter for homeless people on a winter evening in New Delhi, Dec. 28, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless family sit around a bonfire inside a dilapidated shelter for homeless people on a cold night in New Delhi, India, Dec. 28, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless man smiles as he rests on a bed after being rescued from sleeping in the open, at a night shelter in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. Official figures also show the city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm.(AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A stray dog climbs down the stairs of a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, India, Dec. 28, 2022. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A young girl holds plastic bottles inside a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Official figures also show the city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Homeless people sleep in the open under an overpass on a cold night in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Workers hired by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board assist a homeless man, centre, at a night shelter, after he was rescued from sleeping in the open in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Clothes hang on the iron gate of a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless family gathers around a stove on a cold evening in the compound of a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. Many night shelters are overcrowded, with unclean toilets. Rooms stench of rot. And sometimes there is no water. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless man lights a cigarette as others sleep in the open under an overpass on a cold night in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. The harsh bout of winter cold in India's capital is blamed for killing scores of homeless people and leaving tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A registry with information about homeless people is placed at a night shelter in New Delhi, Dec. 29, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. The harsh winter is blamed for killing scores of homeless people. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless rests inside a night shelter in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. Many night shelters are overcrowded, with unclean toilets. Rooms stench of rot. And sometimes there is no water. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Homeless people gather around a bonfire in a street on a cold evening in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless Mangla Kumari laments about the potentially dangerous condition of the dilapidated shelter they live in, in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. Many night shelters are overcrowded, with unclean toilets. Rooms stench of rot. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Sewer water flows next to a shanty built in the compound of a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. Many night shelters are overcrowded, with unclean toilets. Rooms stench of rot. And sometimes there is no water. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless family gathers around a stove as they cook their evening meal in the compound of a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near traffic-busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Homeless people wait to be transported to a night shelter on a cold night in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. The city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm. The harsh winter is blamed for killing scores of homeless people. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Volunteers and workers hired by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board rescue homeless people struggling in the cold to take them to a night shelter in New Delhi, Thursday, Dec. 29, 2022. The city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless woman sits by the entrance to the a dilapidated shelter for homeless people in New Delhi, Dec. 30, 2022. The piercing chill is an ordeal for the city’s homeless, with New Delhi Sunday recording the minimum temperature of 5.5 degrees Celsius (41.9 Fahrenheit). New Delhi's 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              A homeless family and their dog sit around a bonfire outside a night shelter for homeless people on a cold night in New Delhi, Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2022. Official figures show the city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Homeless people rest on a patch of land under an overpass next to a railway track on a cold morning in New Delhi, Dec. 30, 2022. The harsh winter is blamed for killing scores of homeless people and leaving tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)
            
              Homeless people sleep in the open under an overpass on a winter night in New Delhi, Dec. 28, 2022. India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were sleeping homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 rough sleepers. The harsh winter is blamed for killing scores of homeless people and leaving tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets. (AP Photo/Altaf Qadri)

NEW DELHI (AP) — When midnight approaches in New Delhi and a freezing fog settles over the Indian capital, thousands of homeless people spread torn mattresses and blankets on the pavements and lie on them to keep warm.

Those who can’t afford the blankets spend the night around a smoldering fire built with garbage and discarded cardboard boxes. Others hunker down in a government shelter system.

It’s a scene that repeats itself every year when India’s capital experiences a harsh bout of winter cold, blamed for killing scores of homeless people and leaving tens of thousands of others shivering on the streets.

On Sunday, New Delhi recorded a low of 5.5 degrees Celsius (41.9 Fahrenheit), with India’s weather forecasting agency warning of a severe cold wave from Monday.

New Delhi’s 20 million inhabitants are conditioned to various weather extremes, from blistering heat waves in the summer to thick, grey smog that envelopes the capital before the onset of the winter when a brutal cold wave sweeps most of northern India. The cold blankets streets in freezing fog so blinding that drivers cannot see cars in front of them, causing accidents.

The piercing chill is an ordeal for the city’s homeless, who curl their bodies on sidewalks and sleep as the traffic goes by. Even though the city’s night shelters are a refuge to many who would otherwise find themselves sleeping near busy roundabouts and underpasses, most people there live in harsh conditions. Many of the night shelters are overcrowded and have unclean toilets and no water.

“Overcrowding is a big problem. Because of too much footfall, some people sleep on the roadside,” said Sunil Kumar Aledia of the Centre for Holistic Development, who has worked with Delhi’s homeless population for decades.

India’s 2011 census figures show about 47,000 of the city’s residents were homeless, but activists say the number is a vast underestimate and that New Delhi has more than 150,000 without permanent residences to sleep in.

Official figures also show the city’s 195 homeless shelters can accommodate only about 19,000 people, leaving tens of thousands struggling to keep warm.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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AP PHOTOS: New Delhi’s homeless shiver in biting cold