Unconventional Homes for the Homeless

We have discussed Interior Design for millionaires, the wealthy, middle class, students, offices, retail spaces, schools, theatres and even the elderly. Today, let’s talk about an uncomfortable topic. Giving and improving the homes of people who already have a home, is an achievable task. However, what happens to the people who do not have a home? People for whom the streets in the city is a home? People who can’t afford four walls around themselves? There are several homeless shelters, agreed, but they still can’t accomodate everyone and sometimes they are too far away and these people can’t afford the transport to get there. The Result? They end up sleeping cold on the streets, in parks and wherever they find a place. They are completely exposed to rain, cold, sunlight as well as vulnerable to diseases as their living conditions are unhygienic. Winter is approaching and it’s time we start thinking about unconventional homes for the homeless.

The elements which need to be kept in mind while designing such shelters is convenience, comfort, factors of size, multipurpose, hygiene, portability and ease of building. Creating a module which is cheap and easy to make is also of utmost importance as it should be easy to be copied so that most homeless people can take advantage and construct for themselves too. Materials used are also an important aspect as they need to be sturdy, able to brave all kind of weather conditions, light, and comfortable. Moreover, the design needs to adapt to any kind of situation. For instance, the module should be usable in parks, open spaces, streets or alleyways, thus it needs to fit. Size is a debatable issue as some people’s idea of comfort is the bigger the better. But it’s important to remember that encroachment of the streets is also an issue one needs to solve. It’s upto the designer to provide maximum ease of living in limited size and budget.

2Reusing old items such as shipping containers, drainage pipes, old trailers etc. can help to build housing for homeless. These can be cost effective and provides the opportunity to reuse and upcycle these items for a good cause. It can also be comfortable to provide lighting and basic needs in these kind of shelters.

11Apart from these fixed shelters in open public spaces, another alternative is to provide a portable home, like a camper or a tent which can be carried with a person, which holds their belongings and beddings. This kind of portable shelter is more convenient for people who earn daily wages or for odd jobs people as they don’t have a definite place to come back to. In this way, they can carry their homes to wherever they find work and still be warm at night.

6 15 16 17 19 20 14 3Designers serve society, and society comprises of all kinds of people. Sometimes we tend to forget to do our part for people who can’t afford to pay us back. It is the responsibility of architects and interior designers to make an effort to include the downtrodden in public spheres and turning a blind eye to the homeless isn’t a solution. More awareness needs to be spread regarding the issue of homelessness and India needs to wake up to provide sensible solutions to this community. Creating these simple living ideas can prevent a lot of diseases, deaths and create a more all inclusive environment in the country.

Author: Jamila Sidhpurwala

Jamila is one part artist, two parts foodie, and all parts traveler. She is a patron of good art and design and loves to immerse herself in books and music. Simplicity and minimalism is her motto as an architect. A writing enthusiast, she surrounds herself with all things creative. She actively shuns all “ists” and “isms” and firmly believes in a “no – label” world! She isn’t afraid to take risks, speak her mind, push forward and challenge preconceptions. She is a visiting faculty for Interior Design at Cindrebay Nagpur.

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