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Need Room To House People In Expensive Cities? Attach These Pods To Building Walls

These shelters were created for the homeless but they also wouldn’t make a bad office space.

In London, where the insane housing market means that even millionaires can’t afford some neighborhoods, it’s becoming nearly impossible for nonprofits to buy land for homeless shelters or affordable housing.

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One architect has a suggestion for a different approach: Instead of building homeless shelters on land, the city could attach temporary pods to unused space on walls.

“It was based on the idea that these pods wouldn’t be too intrusive and could be used in areas that aren’t otherwise inhabitable,” says 25-year-old architect James Furzer from Spatial Design Architects, whose concept won a recent competition. Furzer envisions the pods in parking lots, alleys, and other parts of the city that can’t be developed.

The simple shelters have a shelf that folds down with a mattress, plenty of natural light from windows, and a ladder for access. As Furzer points out, people sleeping on London streets are often harassed–the majority have been insulted by people walking by, and one in ten say they’ve even been urinated on. Raising a sleeping space off the ground provides a little safety, along with shelter from London’s notoriously bad weather.

The design is a little like a project from a French artist that cleverly used wall space for mini homeless shelters. Because he built the pods on public buildings and the walls were technically public space, he argued that people had a right to stay there.

In London, as rents have gone up and welfare programs have been cut, homelessness has increased almost 80% in the last five years. As many as four in ten homeless people may be homeless because of evictions. While bigger changes are obviously necessary, there’s also a need to help people who are on the street right now. Though Furzer designed the pods as a concept, he hopes they can actually be built.

The same design could also be used for something like office space for a freelancer. “There’s a lot of potential uses,” he says. “Especially when you start to use space that doesn’t initially seem useful.”

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About the author

Adele Peters is a staff writer at Fast Company who focuses on solutions to some of the world's largest problems, from climate change to homelessness. Previously, she worked with GOOD, BioLite, and the Sustainable Products and Solutions program at UC Berkeley, and contributed to the second edition of the bestselling book "Worldchanging: A User's Guide for the 21st Century."

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