Homelessness is a growing issue in many urban areas, caused by a whole host of factors ranging from natural disasters, urban migration or economic crises. And while many may ignore the problem in the hopes that it will just go away, many are choosing to combat it through activism, or small humanitarian efforts in designing portable shelters or even building tiny houses.
In Honolulu, Hawaii, city officials and architects from Group 70 International are teaming up to provide shelter to an increasing homeless population by refurbishing 70 of its old city buses, transforming them into mobile shelters where people can have a safe place to sleep. Buses will be stripped and renovated with recycled materials. Beds, storage shelving will be designed to be foldable and modular, so that the buses' interior spaces will be flexible and adaptable for both day and night.
According to FastCo.Exist, they were inspired by Lava Mae, a similar program for mobile shower buses that sprouted up in San Francisco. Jun Yang, executive director of the office of housing for the City and County of Honolulu, explains:
We were looking at solutions and options that are out there that are within our grasp. What do we have at our fingertips? [Otherwise] they would have run them to the ground. They would have run them beyond their useful life. At that point, they probably would have cannibalized the buses for parts.
So now, instead of just parts, these buses will be remade into urgently needed havens for the city's most vulnerable people, as a service that can supplement existing programs or shelters. These refurbished buses could also be adapted to other uses: mobile health clinics or garden and art mobiles, for example. The city wants to convert some of the buses into "hygiene buses" where people could also take showers. This is a more expensive option, costing about USD $100,000 per conversion, but if their goal to fund these buses is successful, the city hopes to pair one "shelter bus" with a "hygiene bus" for the plan's implementation. If all goes well, Honolulu officials also hope to create buses that could provide services for people with addictions, or mental illnesses, or who have pets.
Mobile bus shelters may seem like an untried approach to a complex problem, but it may just work. From "housing first," to other innovative solutions to homelessness and poverty, a plan like this is more than just providing shelter and a shower -- it's something that can bring a sense of dignity and security for people who need it most. More over at FastCo.Exist.