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The simplest definition is one the children have developed themselves, "without a roof and without roots.. roofless and rootless". This not only describes their state, but separates them from other children of the poor. These are children who have run away from home or institutions, or who have come to the city to earn money for themselves and their village-based families, or who have been abandoned.
While street children share occupations and some characteristics with these other children, they are unique in that they have broken all contact with their homes.
The vulnerability of these children far exceeds that of children who live with their families since they lack this source of social, economic and emotional support.
Most sleep on footpaths or railway stations, some sleep in dargas (or mosques) throughout the city. Cinema theaters, the seaside, parks, below bridges, next to flower stalls and a myriad other places They buy their food from small restaurants and food stalls, some receive free food at the dargas. Many children have obviously learnt to use the resources of these religious institutions.
Bathing is not a priority for most street children - many say they do not bathe at all. Some use the sea as their bathtub, while some use railway stations, pipelines and the dargas. Most of the children get drinking water from the restaurants and food stalls where they purchase food and municipal water taps and pipelines . Railway station latrines are the most widely used toilets, some use the seaside and some the roadside
In general, street children tend to prefer small groups to large gangs, many live alone. This last point may be important, indicating that the children may have problems in dealing with relationships.
Street children are faced with two kinds of emergencies in their lives - sickness and police harassment. According to those who work with street children, harassment by the police and other civic authorities is a daily hazard. Many are caught by the police usually in a "round up", which is common parlance for routine arrests under the Vagrancy Act or picking-up of suspects. Most of them are released "automatically" after some period of detention.
Most leave home because of problems with his/her family or because of the need to earn money or the acute poverty of their families. Most children do not retain links with their families. Very few have revisited their native place or write letters home or send money. They feel they would not return unless they had a good job but many aree "not interested". Some of the children either have no parents or no home to which they can return, or still regard the quarrels, that they left home for, too significant.