Tackling Homelessness with New Ideas

In this article, we look at a few ideas that aim to provide a temporary shelter or permanent residence for homeless people.

Solving homelessness is not easy, but the good news is that there are many different parties trying to tackle this hard and complex problem.

In this article, we look at a few ideas that aim to provide at least a temporary shelter for homeless people — if not a permanent one.

Prefabricated micro-units

Patrick Kennedy, the owner of the development company Panoramic Interests, has designed these — thus affordable — MicroPADs offering a place to live for one person, or possibly a couple.

The fully furnished, 20″ by 8″ foot steel box is reminiscent of a shipping container and designed in a way to allow stacking many of them on top of each other when they become a building of small housing units.

The MicroPAD — PAD stands for Prefab Affordable Dwelling — is prefabricated in China to lower the cost. Nevertheless, each unit has its own front door and large window with those positioned on the side of a building having two. There’s a mud-room area to hang clothes that include a bench on which to sit when taking off shoes. Every unit has a fridge-freezer, a sink and a combination oven-microwave.

A day bed has storage underneath, as well as a “black light” which is said to destroy bed bugs. A micro closet can hold clothes, and a separate closet is for a broom and cleaning products.

Micro-homes that can pop up in just one day

An interesting initiative was launched in the UK’s capital during summer 2017 to address the housing shortage. Called the SHED Project, it is a collaborative work of architecture office Studio Bark and property management company Lowe Guardians that saw affordable micro-homes being placed inside vacant buildings like warehouses across the city. Built from affordable, low-impact materials – these compact SHEDS take only one day to construct and can be easily styled into attractive tiny dwellings. Nevertheless, they are equipped with WiFi so that residents could stay “connected.”

The SHED Project

Each SHED is built primarily of CNC-milled Smartply (formaldehyde-free Oriented Strand Board), lamb’s wool insulation that also helps with soundproofing, and recycled polycarbonate – all materials made in or around the United Kingdom.

To increase ease and speed of construction, Studio Bark designed a modular architectural system, where each panel is fitted together to create “U-Build” modules that can then be easily bolted together into the SHED frame. This model also has the added benefit of reducing construction waste, both financially and environmentally. In that sense, these pods could also be easily reused and re-appropriated.

Double-decker buses transformed into homeless shelters

Founded in 2018, the UK-based NGO is providing a low-cost solution to temporary housing, using decommissioned London double-deckers that have been transformed into shelters. The project started with a few buses donated by Stagecoach – featuring 16 beds, a 32-seat restaurant, online desk space and a “holistic wellbeing space”, along with 24-hour expert support.

With all this, Buses4Homeless aims to provide a cost-effective, safety net and stepping stone between the night shelters and longer-term permanent housing solutions.

To that end, it is also partnering with other parties – such as King’s College London, Laura Ashley as well as local restaurants, chefs, architects, and construction companies – to offer more than a shelter and meals, to equip guests with the skills and confidence to move to a life beyond the street.

Buses4Homeless also works with the Metropolitan Police to keep residents safe.

Places on the bus are offered on a three-month basis, forming an intensive support program to allow people to improve their physical and mental wellbeing, and learn the skills they need to get back on their feet.

Solar-powered sleeping pods

A German-based team has designed and installed heated windproof and waterproof futuristic sleeping pods across the German city of Ulm to provide the homeless with emergency shelter at night.

Known as Ulmer Nest, these sleeping pods are intended to provide shelter, especially in winter, when temperatures are below zero. They are made out of wood and steel to effectively protect against rain or strong wind. A single pod can keep up to two people protected from rain, frost, and humidity – while ensuring air circulation.

What makes Ulmer Nest special though, are built-in solar panels and a set of sensors that can monitor temperature, humidity, smoke, and carbon dioxide levels. Also, these pods are connected to a radio network to allow their users to get in touch with the team overseeing the cabins.

Instead of cameras, each pod has a motion sensor for alerting social workers and Ulmer Nest members that someone spent the night in the capsule. This way, the privacy of those using a pod is protected while at the same time, the system is informed that someone has been sleeping and that the pod has to be cleaned for the next use.

The first Ulmer Nest pods were installed in Ulm in the winter of 2020, and if the scheme proves successful, they could end up being used throughout Germany.


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