Does This Portable Homeless Shelter On Wheels Help Solve Homelessness Or Enable It?

A slightly-less-bad bad situation is still pretty bad.

Living on the street isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time, but perhaps it might be a little more bearable with this rolling shelter. At least it’s well-designed and ticks a few boxes that need to be ticked when sleeping rough.


Developed by Eduardo Lacroze, of the Lacroze-Miguens-Prati architecture firm, the “Rolling Shelter” is built around a shopping cart. When being moved, it folds up into a square box that fits neatly on top of the wheels, using the space between the cart’s cage and the bottom metal grid. When in stationary mode, one side folds down into a flat-bed. Inside is an integrated Thermarest pad, while side compartments provide storage space.

“It resolves in a single entity the shelter, the storage of the belongings and the daily activity of the homeless,” Lacroze says. That is, if one assumes that the homeless are going to need a cart for collecting stuff they can sell and recycle.

The design recently won a Small Project Practitioners award organized by the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in association with the Mad Housers, a nonprofit homeless group in Atlanta. LMP has donated the prototype and is now working on new versions.

The shelter is made of a layered composite, with reinforced fiberglass on the outside sandwiching an air-trapping honeycomb material inside. That provides insulation from the elements, Lacroze says. Meanwhile, the metal handles on the side (in the mobile position) become feet in the parking position.

Designed to be put together by non-skilled workers using only a screwdriver, the shelter costs about $500. Lacroze hopes to bring costs down by using donated shopping carts and other corporate sponsorship. And he’s now looking for grants and government help to actually put the units in the field. “The way we envision these eventually is to act like a bicycle [share] where you pick up and drop off as need be. But that would require some regulation,” he says.

The nagging question is whether designs like these, whatever their strengths, actually end up encouraging homelessness by making it minimally more endurable. But Lacroze defends his work, not unreasonably.


“We have been labeled as enablers of a situation that shouldn’t happen. But that’s the equivalent of not giving a medicine because it addresses the symptoms and not the causes of the disease,” he says.

About the author

Ben Schiller is a New York staff writer for Fast Company. Previously, he edited a European management magazine and was a reporter in San Francisco, Prague, and Brussels.