Could This Be the Solution to Homelessness We So Desperately Need?
Winter is a brutal time for the homeless of America’s cities, who frequently take refuge from the cold in underground metro stations or overcrowded shelters; that is, if they’re allotted space. Experts agree that the best solution to the growing homeless crisis is to simply help the homeless find homes. Some states have already initiated programs to construct housing for homeless individuals. As Mother Jones reports, “in the past nine years, Utah has decreased the number of homeless by 72 percent—largely by finding and building apartments where they can live, permanently, with no strings attached.”
But where to build an entirely new residence for those without homes in a city like New York, where so much of the land has been privatized?
Homelessness has grown to a point of crisis in cities like Los Angeles (where the number rose 23% to 58,000 people in 2016) and New York City (which saw a 39 percent increase in homelessness over 2016), largely due to rising rent costs. It’s nearly impossible to go anywhere in New York without passing by a makeshift cardboard shelter or shopping cart piled high with rags. According to New York's Coalition for the Homeless, there were at least 62,000 homeless people sleeping in New York shelters each night in September 2017, plus many more on the streets. The shelters themselves are overcrowded and rife with danger, especially for women and trans people.
One possible housing solution? Rows of detachable scaffolding lined with dozens of honeycomb-like pods that could be attached to existing city buildings. Homed, a proposal from Norwegian architect Andreas Tjeldflaat, would construct “suspended micro-neighborhoods for the city's least fortunate,” the firm said.
If the proposal were accepted by the city, it could provide a vertical "homeless shelter with dignity."
Photo credit: Framlab
"Albeit limited in size," Tjeldflaat's proposal writes, "the unit nevertheless offers a space dedicated for single-occupancy. This is a response to a host of factors which the typical shelter spaces are unable to provide, many of which are crucial for acceptable qualities of life: privacy, safety, individuality, self-esteem, among others."
Photo credit: Framlab
As Mashable describes, the pods can even display billboards to help landlords bring in extra advertising revenue:
“Each Homed unit is designed to provide year-round housing that can handle New York's changing climate — from harsh cold to simmering heat. The exterior of each pod is made up of oxidized aluminum cladding. The pod's front face is made up of PMMA Smart Glass, which could allow digital content to be presented to passersby — whether this be artwork, public information or commercial content...Each minimal unit has a floor-to-ceiling window wall, and the layout can be tailored to the needs of residents...you can pick from different furniture, storage and lighting presets.”
The project could potentially be highly cost-effective in the long run, considering the inordinate yearly costs of policing and medical treatment for the homeless. Homed is certainly not the first innovative solution incorporating design, city planning and 3D printing to find equitable housing for those without it. Architects have proposed such ideas—like turning shipping containers into trailer-like shelters— for years. But with hundreds more homeless people sleeping in New York City’s already crowded streets each year, it’s more urgent than ever that the city find creative solutions that work. And an idea that allows building owners to turn a profit sounds like a plan New York can get behind.