Teaming up to tackle homelessness

By Katie Mitchelmore on 15 February 2019
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Everyone deserves a safe place to call home, but sadly this is still far from reality.

At least 320,000 people are homeless in Britain, according to research by housing charity Shelter. This equates to 1 in every 200 people. And despite government pledges to tackle the crisis, sadly this statistic is only on the up, with a 4% year-on-year increase. This means that every single day, 36 people become newly homeless.

Shelter says this figure, which includes rough sleepers and people in temporary accommodation, is likely to be an underestimate as it’s just not possible to capture everyone, in particular those who experience “hidden” homelessness, such as sleeping on friends’ floors and sofas.

Over the past year we’ve been trying to do what we can to help out, supporting both the Single Homeless Project (SHP), who help vulnerable and socially excluded people, and The Trussell Trust, a network of food banks providing food to people in crisis. And whilst we have seen first hand the amazing work they both do, we’ve also seen the sheer need for it.

So we decided that we need to do more. Instead of closing the doors on society’s most vulnerable people, we want to focus on rebuilding and reopening those doors. Building connections, communities, and a safe and secure place for vulnerable people can call home.

So through The Lab Foundation, we’ve volunteered our time to team up with an organisation based in Cornwall, who are committed to helping the most vulnerable street homeless people across the area. Research shows that, despite a reduction in homelessness within Cornwall, the county still has relatively high numbers of rough sleepers, particularly in Penzance. The organisation aims to tackle this, not just through getting people off the street, but also setting them up with the necessary skills and ability to positively improve their lives.

Although situated in idyllic Cornwall, our local town is home to some of the most deprived communities and behaviours in the county. A housing project such as ‘OffStreet’ is needed beyond anyone’s imagination.” Craig Little, Rebuild Southwest / OffStreet

The aim is to design and develop an alternative and sustainable housing project for homeless people who have successfully completed a drug rehabilitation program. The proposed design will consist of shipping containers, each equipped with kitchenettes and sleeping provisions, providing the users with a warm, comfortable and private space to call their own.

“These designs mean we have a visual to show potential residents, planners, and potential landlords of sites – it's something to get excited about as well as a reassurance that the site will be designed and landscaped sympathetically, creating a community asset, challenging stigmas and creating community capacity for the future.” - Laura Curtis, OffStreet

The scheme will also include a communal kitchen and dining area – where people can connect, share food, have conversations, and take part in wellbeing activities. There will also be the opportunity to team up with local organisations to renovate empty homes, helping them to develop key skills and integrate into the local community, whilst also giving them a sense of pride, worthiness and responsibility.

Through providing somewhere that they can call home, with onsite support, advice and guidance, we hope it will create a sustainable cycle to help vulnerable people remain sober, break down previous behavioural cycles, formulate friendships and create a positive future.

“Having grown up in Cornwall, I'm looking forward to being able to give something back to the community. Cornwall's unique location and increasing popularity as a holiday destination has its own pitfalls, many linked to housing provision. Hopefully we can design a low-cost model that can go on to be replicated elsewhere.” - Charlotte Tamplin, Architect, Spacelab

We’re always on the lookout for new projects that we can support and get involved with. If you know of any project or scheme which we could benefit from our time or skills, please do get in touch as we’d love to know more.

Topics: design, team, spacelab, agile working, homeless