Case study

Housing the Homeless: Uplifting Urban Pavement Dwellers Through the Equitas Bird's Nest Programme

Addressing the growing problem of homelessness in India

This case study describes the experience of Equitas Development Initiatives Trust (EDIT) in providing services to the poor in Chennai, India. The study discusses the challenges and realities of working with urban homeless populations, narrates the EDIT team’s experience, and provides insight into lessons learned. EDIT was created in 2007, to refocus efforts on ultra poor populations such as pavement dwellers. In 2009, EDIT partnered with Unitus to pilot the Equitas Bird’s Nest (EBN) program. Over an 18-month period, EBN provided housing, healthcare, food security, education, and dignified livelihoods for pavement-dwelling populations. Program objectives included moving households off the pavement and into permanent housing, creating food security and a stable income, providing sustained access to healthcare and education, and demonstrating that ultra poor programs could be cost-efficient. Lessons learned from the program include:

  • Work with strategic partners to identify and secure housing;
  • Begin with skills training and establish an alternative livelihood before introducing housing to homeless populations;
  • Ultra poor programs can be made cost-efficient and effective by asking participants to pay back a portion of program costs.