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The hut slum is tucked away in back alleys of this teeming metropolis. All around it are the busy streets of a mega-city.  Here, there is only a dirt path lined by grass huts. This hut slum is home to several thousand people, men, women and children who are enslaved by poverty and have no hope of a better life.  We walk by one hut where a small animal is roasting over an open fire.  I look, do a double take and realize that their dinner is a cat that had wandered into the hut slum.  Desperate people do desperate things. 

hut slum

chennai prayers

These are the hidden people of Chennai.
They are the poorest of the poor and though medical care is ‘free’ in India, it is seldom available for the ones trapped in extreme poverty.  We are struck by how each hut is jammed close to the ones beside it.  The grass sides and roof are tinder dry, and one errant spark will wipe out the whole slum.  Most of the people cook on open fires, either beside their hut or even inside. There is no running water, and certainly, no fire department. 

Every week, the residents of the Hut Slum receive special medical care from a team of caring volunteers. Some of the residents have eye infections, some festering cuts and wounds. Stomach ailments are common, and disease is a way of life. These dear volunteers provide the only medical care that many of these people will ever have. Medicines are dispensed at no charge. The medical care is free. The medicines are purchased from donations given by Streams of Mercy.

Photography by Nathan Golden.