Last week I went along to a local charity called Two Saints, which helps people who are homeless by providing a variety of services and support. I was there to find out more about volunteering, but I confess that part of me was just curious to see what their day centre (the hub of the organisation) was like, having heard about it before.
On my arrival at the day centre, I was given a tour of the premises and further information about the services Two Saints provide for the people who come there. These include basics like mobile phone charging, laundry, showers, a clothing store, access to GPs, housing and debt advice and help with job searches/CV writing. The centre also does a simple breakfast and a cooked lunch (for a nominal charge), with hot drinks available throughout the day. I felt like I was back at Crisis Christmas, but on a far smaller scale.
It was good to get an idea of what life at the day centre is like, and to hear about how I could get involved if I volunteered there. After a few Christmases with Crisis and a year at my local food bank, I feel like I’m ready for a new challenge and would like to take the experience I’ve already got working with homeless people further. Surprisingly, Two Saints only has a handful of volunteers at its day centre; fingers crossed I’ll be able to join the small team very soon!
This week I came across New York based not-for-profit Common Ground, whose mission is to tackle homelessness by encouraging people to stop sleeping rough and move into supported accommodation. The organisation owns over 3000 housing units, many of which are for single people, and designed to be green, affordable and incorporate communal spaces like gyms, gardens and computer rooms. Although small, the rooms maximise light and space, as you can see from the pictures below.
Common Ground has a “housing first” philosophy. This is the idea that
before a long-time homeless person can successfully kick a drug habit, get a mental health issue under control, or become a productive member of society, they need a stable housing situation first.
and believes that having a physical environment people can feel safe and comfortable in, as well as proud of can be the first, key step towards positive change.
A while back I wrote about how a group of American students had been tasked with designing shelters for rough sleepers, and I recently found out about the funky and awesome cardboard Cardborigami hut…
You probably get the idea from the pictures above, but as their website explains, Cardborigami is
A fold-able shelter that provides instant privacy and weather protection for those who have none. These shelters are water-resistant, flame-retardant and recyclable. The shelter itself is sustainable because it is manufactured locally and, after the life of the shelter, can be easily recycled.
There’s more about how Cardborigami’s designer, Tina Hovsepian, came up with the concept and why she believes it’s important for homeless people to have access to shelter and privacy, as well as food and clothing, here.
I loved the creative thinking behind these ‘Impact-A-Thon’ competition entries to design a low cost shelter that could be used by people sleeping rough.
As this article comments,
It’s questionable whether the ideas are really solutions to homelessness (is a temporary shelter any substitute for indoor accommodation?). But the challenge does seem to have taught [..] engineers and designers [to] use their talents to solve hard social problems
It’s great to see university students being set this kind of challenge to raise awareness of the difficulties faced by those living on the streets.