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Architecture

These ‘parasitic pods’ are a brilliant way to help shelter London’s homeless

In London, the number of homeless people sleeping rough has risen 77 percent since 2010. Worse, many establishments have installed anti-homeless spikes as a short-sighted solution.

James Furzer of Spatial Design Architects has come up with a better plan to address this humanitarian dilemma: sleeping pods that ‘float’.

The concept, called Homes for the Homeless, involves attaching plywood pods to the side of buildings just above head height. It utilises unused spaces, making it inexpensive to build in a city where real estate prices are crazy high.

The temporary living arrangements can be used as shelter from the weather, or even used as overnight housing. More importantly, it gives the poor some much-need privacy and dignity. According to Furzer, the homeless face social alienation and humiliation daily, and are 35 times more likely than the average person to commit suicide.

Homes for the Homeless by James Furzer

The ‘parasitic pods’ are equipped with a mattress, a makeshift living area, and large roof windows that give the interiors plenty of space and natural sunlight. There’s no electricity, but solar panels could easily be added to the design.

Ideally to be maintained and managed by charities, the tiny dwellings can be built in singles, pairs, and even entire communities.

Truly, it’s an incredible concept that seeks to help more than 6,500 people out living on the streets of London annually.

“It’s time we changed our attitudes towards homeless people,” Furzer explained. “They have a right to be treated with the same respect as anyone else. After all… it could happen to any of us.”

Homes for the Homeless by James Furzer

We recently caught up with Furzer to know more about Homes for the Homeless.

What was the inspiration behind the project?

“The initial aim of the pods was to highlight the issue of homelessness and rough sleeping, not just locally, but globally. There was no initial suggestion that these were to become a reality, simply raising awareness.

“If we refer to the actual design side of things, and what they provide in that respect, then we have to focus on the suggestion of the necessities. Shelter, warmth, protection from both the elements and the public. The ability for one to shut themselves away from the gaze of the public is something we all take for granted and is a fundamental requirement to sanity.

“Shelter is a basic requirement every single human requires, and even a requirement primitive man has sought. Shelter does not mean a built house, it can simply be a crevasse, void, cave, etc. that can provide you with the fundamentals noted above.

“It was also intended to highlight a point that I have been working to change, that architecture should be readily available for all walks of life, not just those who can afford it, or who are deemed as working class. Designed space is a beautiful luxury everyone should have the privilege of experiencing, for free.”

Homes for the Homeless by James Furzer

Would it have been hard suspending a small shelter on the side of a building?

“The suspension of the pod was something that would be tricky, however, there is certain types of engineering details that made the concept possible. A lot of prefabricate balconies are bolted directly to blocks of flats, with shock connections so it would have potentially been something along these lines.

“Likewise, if the host building wasn’t not viable or suitable to use, then a standalone pod was being considered.”

Since the project would have involved attaching pods to structures, that would’ve meant asking the permission of building owners. How did you plan to convince them to participate in the project? Would it have been purely for charitable reasons, or did you plan on giving financial incentives?

“Initially, I was looking to use council owned buildings as host buildings, car parks and warehouses etc., therefore permission would have been governed by one main body.

“However, if an individual was feeling charitable, we could look at the position of placing these on the sides of dwellings. I’d still prefer them to be used on council sites that are generally unused, unkempt, and readily available.”

Homes for the Homeless by James Furzer

Sadly, the Indiegogo project didn’t reach its funding goal. Were you able to build the prototype? And if not, do you have plans of trying again in the future?

“The funds were not raised. However, the money raised was put towards the engineering of the scheme so it is now possible that one could be built.

“I have been working on a more viable concept of a standalone shelter that has gained the interest of a private investor, and which I’m hoping to release prior to Christmas this year. It has also gained interest of an investor in the USA, so watch this space!”

To know more about James Furzer and his work, you can check out his website here.

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