NEW DELHI – It is nearly midnight when Anil Verma receives a message on his phone alerting him that there is a homeless man in the Old Delhi area. He climbs into his white van and follows the notification sent from the Rain Basera telephone application to track down the next occupant of his shelter.
Verma arrives at the location and exits his vehicle, wearing latex gloves and sporting an accreditation lanyard around his neck, which identifies him as the coordinator of the overnight shelters run by the non-profit SPYM.
After quickly assessing the condition of the homeless man, the other two members of the team move him to the back of the van and Verma drives to the nearest shelter, notifying the user who sent the message that the man has been rescued.
Every night Verma receives messages from the nearly 3,000 citizens of Delhi who have downloaded the Rain Basera app, launched in December 2015 by Delhi Urban Shelter Improvement Board, a local government organization.
The application, which at the moment only works on Android phones and can be downloaded from the Google Play Store, automatically captures the coordinates when users open the app and take a photo of the homeless person and sends their details to the team in charge of that area, DUSIB Chief Engineer S.K. Mahajan explained to EFE.
Users can also transport the homeless people in their own vehicles using information about shelters closest to their location, he added.
They can also make a complaint about a shelter or even donate blankets for the shelters.
The idea for the app came after a similar app launched by another local government department for citizens to upload photos and report garbage pile-ups. The Rain Basera app focuses on providing a way out for the hundreds of homeless people who sleep in the open in the Indian capital.
Humanitarian organizations estimate that there are between 100,000 and 150,000 homeless people in the city, although Mahajan says that in the last three years, his department has not been able to count more than 16,000 homeless people on a winter night.
Between October and March, close to 20 rescue teams patrol the streets every night between 10 pm and 4 am, rescuing not only the homeless people reported through the Rain Basera app and telephone calls, but also the ones they come across during their patrols.
Since its launch over a year ago, almost 700 reports of homeless people have been made through the app, according to DUSIB data.
The number of successful rescues, however, has been somewhat lower. According to Mahajan, between 20 and 30 percent of homeless people refuse to be rescued for fear they might lose their market stalls or donations of blankets which they can later exchange for money or drugs.