Portable Housing the way to housing the Urban Homeless?

Portable, temporary, modular housing structures may be the future of housing the homeless. These designs are manufactured at fractions of the cost of current affordable housing units, and they are easy to install, use and move if need be. This makes them perfect for the world’s chronically homeless. Though the technology exists to implement this ambitious scheme in many cities, regular manufacturing and installation of such units may be far in the future. However, there are several NGOs and architects working towards making this a viable solution, world over.


Skid Row, Los Angeles


At the centre of huge encampments, Skid Row has always been the centre of a huge homeless population in the city of Los Angeles, USA. Now working to solve this social issue, USC’s School of Architecture has launched Homeless Studio. This initiative is run by 11 fourth year architecture students and their instructors, who aim to build “temporary, moveable, modular, and expandable structures” specifically designed for the urban homeless. The students study homelessness by attending talks by experts in the field and meeting their clients through agencies such as Midnight Mission and Skid Row Housing Trust. This allows them to truly understand their needs, which most organisations make little to no attempt to do. This results in small changes to their designs that make a world of difference to the chronically homeless, such as a wooden shelf at ground level to keep their feet of the street. It shows that their ventures in the actual daily lives of their clients gives them the opportunity to incorporate dignity into their design – an utterly unique and tailor-made home, not house. The students also attempt to use smart solutions that they “pick up” from the streets such as the use of tents, boxes, shopping carts, trailers and so on. The designs will eventually be delivered to Skid Row and a final group project will serve as a template for temporary housing development Hope of the Valley Rescue Mission, making a more permanent change to their society.


Merton, London 


Award-winning architecture firm Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners are designing prefabricated, semi portable housing for about 35 people in the Merton, London. The units are built in a factory in Derbyshire allowing for precision while minimising waste (and therefore cost) them craned into place on site with the services already installed. The units have a lifespan of 60 years and can be relocated. Each unit is 600 pounds cheaper than the local authoritie’ new builds and therefore can be rented for 150 pound a week, 65% of market rate. Insulation and air-tightness put energy bills as low as 10 pounds a month. For the tenants- half from YMCA housing and half from the housing waiting list – the units are practical and cheap, a virtual god-send in this area of London.


Gurgaon, Delhi


The peak of winter in Delhi sees the installation of 8 portable cabins and a permanent night shelter (with two women only rooms) placed around Gurgaon. Each cabin is 10-20 feet and can accommodate up to 10 people. They will also have caretakers and 10 sets of bedding as well as a mobile toilet nearby. And the liaison officers will send more people to the community centre says Mahender Singh, Chief Project Officer. But a tour of these cabins quickly reveals the problems. A few have seepage problems that leads to wet bedding. One had no occupants due to safety fears. Another has no electricity due to a nearby construction site. Yet another’s toilets are locked as the drainage pipes have not been installed.  The locals also have no idea they exist and those who do are unwilling to move due to fear. Attendants say they cannot prove that they are there to help and they can’t stop alcoholics and drug addicts. This project was a step in the right direction but in order to become a viable temporary solution, much more attention must be paid to its faults.


Sources: https://www.wired.com/2016/11/strikingly-imaginative-structures-housing-las-homeless/








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