Profiting from the Poor: The Scandal of the “Sleep Mafia” Blanket Vendors

DELHI – Countless families in Asia have little or no insulation or indoor heating. Those who sleep on the streets are even more exposed to the cold. Blankets provide comfort and protection and serve as tangible expressions of Christ’s love.

Most families in Asia have little or no insulation or indoor heating. Those who sleep on the streets are even more exposed to the cold. Blankets provide comfort and protection and serve as tangible expressions of Christ's love.

It is estimated that more than 100,000 men, women, and children sleep on the streets in India’s capital city. For the most part, they are unskilled day laborers who have come to earn a living and make a future for themselves. Sadly, multitudes of them barely earn enough to purchase food to survive with little or nothing left for housing and other bare necessities of life.

Delhi police report collecting more than 3,000 unidentifiable bodies from the streets every year.

Offering free blankets to these unfortunate, struggling laborers is a ministry of Gospel for Asia (GFA) and many other faith-based NGOs. It is the giving itself that is the true expression of Christ’s love flowing through us. GFA-supported partners can give the blankets freely because readers like you give freely to underwrite their cost.

Unless someone is willing to freely give these people blankets solely out of the grace and love of God, thousands will continue to suffer, and many will die.”
The blankets have no price tag or “strings” attached, in a true presentation of God’s grace. Imagine a hard-working person so poor that their bed is the side or the median of a road. Imagine how they are exposed to the chilling cold of winter because they have no blanket to provide them warmth and much-needed rest. Imagine each person sensing the warmth of the Lord’s embrace as they wrap the potentially life-saving blanket around their weary body.

Now imagine the scandal of “unscrupulous entrepreneurs” who turn someone’s existential need into a financial opportunity for themselves.

The blanket rental business is booming in the streets of Delhi.

The New York Times described how the cry of one laborer appearing in the documentary film, “Cities of Sleep,” begging for a blanket speaks for thousands. “Sir, I am a poor man. I’ll die.” With a chuckle, the merchant tells him, “You’re not allowed to die. Even that will cost you.” The documentary dubbed the blanket and cot renters “a sleep mafia who controls who sleeps where, for how long, and for what quality of sleep.”

Adding insult to injury, the sleep mafia blanket vendors prices fluctuate on the economic concept of supply and demand. The colder the weather, the greater the demand. The greater the demand, the higher the rental fee.

Unless someone is willing to freely give these people blankets solely out of the grace and love of God, thousands will continue to suffer, and many will die.

Kindness is largely unknown to the laborers and families who sleep on the streets. Life is a burden many are unable to escape. Unfortunately, even those with a few more resources use their relative affluence to profit from the helpless.

Jesus asked, “What man is there among you who, if his son asks for bread will give him a stone.” (Matthew 7:9) The point Jesus was making applies to more than fathers and sons. It applies to all of us. When we see a person in need, the Lord expects us to help with that need if we are able to do so.

The blanket is the tangible evidence of the love of Christ only when it is offered with no strings attached. I John 3:17 exposes the scandal of the “sleep mafia” and others who would withhold from the poor as a matter of a heart without love.

“But whoever has this world’s goods (that which is necessary to sustain life) and sees his brother in need and shuts up his heart from him (to be devoid of pity towards the one in need), how does the love of God abide in Him.”

Our purpose is not to condemn the entrepreneurs of the “sleep mafia.” It is, rather, to help our readers understand the gravity of people half a world away for whom a blanket can be their most precious possession. If we can begin to comprehend their need, the love of God must surely constrain us to open our hearts to help.

Watch this short video of K.P. Yohannan sharing his own blanket with a laborer sleeping on a cold street in Delhi.


Learn how you can underwrite the cost of blankets and warm clothing here.

Read how “Blankets Bring Warmth to a Shivering City.”

Pray that the Lord will enable us to reach many thousands of people who need the warmth of a blanket and to know the love of God in their lives.


To read more news on Non-Profit Organizations making a positive impact in the world on Missions Box, go here.