LAHORE - Homeless people in Lahore, who were spending nights under the open sky in cold weather, will now get free meals and sleep in Panah Gahs (shelters) in Lahore.

The tent shelters erected by the Punjab government are temporary and these are meant to serve the homeless till permanent structures are built for them, as per the order of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

In a tweet on Saturday, the premier said the “tents are being set up in Lahore as temporary shelters for the homeless [who earlier were] sleeping on the footpaths”.

In another tweet he said he had asked Punjab Chief Minister Usman Buzdar to immediately erect tents for the homeless and provide them food as the weather is turning increasingly cold.

Besides Lahore, spots for the temporary Panah Gahs were also being looked for in Peshawar and Karachi, he added.

The Nation learnt that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister has also approved establishment of three new shelter homes in Peshawar and rehabilitate the existing ones, as per the vision of the prime minister.

PM Khan on his Twitter account shared pictures of the temporary shelters in Lahore at Data Darbar, Badami Bagh Sabzi Mandi, Railway Station and Thokar Niaz Baig.

Punjab government had already identified five spots – the above said four places and Lorry Adda – for construction of permanent shelters and work is in progress on this project.

Taking the unprecedented initiative, the prime minister on November 10 had inaugurated the construction of shelters homes in the Punjab capital and expressed the hope these would not only provide shelter to the homeless but also prove to be the ‘centers of excellence’.

Lahore is a city of 11.13 million people. According to ‘Shelter’ NGO, which works for the homeless people in Pakistan, there are more than 185,000 homeless souls in Lahore alone.

Thousands of labourers come to the provincial capital for earning a livelihood and they have to stay here for prolonged periods.

Already living on edge, many of the labourers have to spend nights in the open sky if they fail to find work for days. These unfortunate souls mostly remain underfed and are forced to either seek alms or get free food from different shrines – Data Darbar being most famous among those.

Disappointed and dejected, hundreds of these labourers also end up in the drug tarp each year and become a permanent burden on the society at large.

Until days ago, people sleeping along almost all major city roads, markets, and bus and railway stations was a common site. With this noble initiative of the government, the picture of the city will hopefully get better.

Also, the government step is very timely as the mercury has dropped and the shelters will save the homeless from getting sick.

Pakistan Tehreek Insaf government has promised that Pakistan would be turnned into a welfare state on the model of ‘State of Madinah’.

To materialise their commitments the government has started construction of shelters in Lahore and project would likely be expanded to the other cities of the country also.

Lahore Deputy Commissioner Saleha Saeed supervised the establishing of temporary Panah Gahs in Lahore at Data Darbar, Sabzi Mandi, Railway Station and Thokar Niaz Baig where those who were earlier forced to sleep on footpaths will not only take rest but also be given free meals.

Many homeless people had already started availing this facility.

DC Lahore said until the permanent shelters equipped with better lodging facilities are constructed, homeless people will spend cold nights at these tent-shelters. “The administration has also made foolproof security arrangements for these shelters,” she said.

Project Director Shahid, who is guiding the establishment of temporary Panah Gahs in Lahore, said tents have been installed and administration will swiftly make sure all arrangements to provide relief to the poor and homeless people. “Lighting work will also be completed soon,” he said.

Project In-charge of Shelter Home being constructed in front of the shrine of Hazrat Usman Bin Ali Hajveri told that a three-story Musafir Khana at Data Darbar is being contracted.

As for the permanent shelter homes, the Lahore Development Authority is executing this project.

Though Lahore DC has vowed to construct these facilities in minimum period of time, sources in the LDA said the target of building all the five shelter homes in two months looks impossible to achieve. They said it will take at least three to four month to complete the work.

Staff Reporter from Peshawar adds: Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Mahmood Khan has approved establishment of three new shelter homes in provincial metropolis and directed authorities to collect data of homeless people.

Chairing a meeting at CM House Peshawar, he directed authorities to make arrangements for setting up shelter homes keeping in view the vision of Prime Minister Imran Khan.

The meeting was attended by Chief Secretary Naveed Kamran Baloch, Additional Chief Secretary P&D Shahzad Bangash, Principal Secretary to CM Muhammad Israr, Finance Secretary Shakil Qadir, Commissioner Peshawar and other relevant officials.

The meeting was told that at present there are 11 shelter homes in the province of which three are in Peshawar and the remaining are situated in different regional headquarters that need rehabilitation.

Addressing the participants of the meeting, the CM also directed rehabilitation of existing shelter homes and compiling data of homeless people for their proper identification. He said proper homework was needed keeping in view the vision of the prime minister. He also directed rehabilitation of existing Drug Addicts Centre and said that needed staff and facilities should be provided to these facilities.

He also agreed with the proposal to allocate ten beds for the treatment of drug addicts in three major hospitals and directed for consulting hospital authorities in this connection. He said it is a serious issue which required appropriate consideration.

The chief minister also stressed utilisation of full capacity of Zamong Kor (Our Home) directing to bring in maximum number of street children.

He also took notice of complaints regarding non-provision of stipends to artists and directed relevant authorities to address the issue.