The Spring Gardens Center is nicer than most hotels, and even homes. But it’s actually a $6 million hostel for the homeless built by St. Mungo’s, a homeless charity in London. It’s a novel idea: Instead of sticking homeless people in dank, miserable-looking shelters, why not put them in open, airy accommodations that inspire confidence?
The hostel, which was built as part of the U.K. government’s Places for Change program, uses a giant, single room as a public area. In addition to providing a communal space for residents to enjoy computer stations, pool tables, the dining hall, and a library, the set-up also allows staff to easily keep an eye on residents with alcohol, drug, or mental problems.
Perhaps the central piece of the Spring Gardens program is its garden. The entire building wraps around the communal garden, which features individual plots for residents to grow their own fruits, vegetables, and herbs–everything is within limits, as long as it’s legal. The plots are meant to inspire confidence in the homeless residents’ ability to finish projects to completion. In addition to offering courses in gardening, the hostel also provides training in carpentry, food hygiene, literacy, and DJing.
It all sounds exciting enough that even members of the general population might want to get involved–and that’s something of a problem. Residents can’t be blamed if they stall their exit from the institution, as any housing after that would seem lackluster. And there is always the possibility that protestors could get riled up about the homeless having better housing than other cash-starved members of society. But in the end, the Spring Gardens Center is a template for other homeless hostels that want to provide a positive, nurturing environment for everyone who passes through.