Across Britain full-time workers are being priced out of the rental property market and forced to find alternative accommodation.
In 2016, as part of our Starter for 10 competition, Thames Reach sent a proposal to us to conduct research into a specific group of migrant workers in North London. Those living in the tent encampments were working long hours, often on short-term projects and coming home to makeshift, substandard accommodation.
The research conducted found that what they needed was short-term, transitional accommodation that could be used whilst they were working in an area and then packed up.
As a result, we launched a design competition for architects to come up with a transitional, adaptable form of accommodation that offered a degree of privacy and autonomy for these workers.
The Housing Solution
The winning entry was submitted by Reed Watts Architects, who proposed an almost flat-pack ‘pod’ that could be easily assembled and taken down and accommodated by night shelters.
Each pod accommodates one person, with a bed, safe box, curtain and hook to hang clothes. Testing of the pods began at a night shelter in Hillingdon and then at the 999 Club in Deptford.
The purpose of the pod was to provide an alternative to mattresses laid out on the floor of a shelter, offering guests very little privacy. It was thought that users of the Pods would benefit through a greater sense of autonomy which would in turn have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
Mark, a 48-year-old with a history of mental illness stayed in one of the pods at Hillingdon. Prior to staying in the pods Mark had been sleeping rough. As winter drew on he feared for his health as he faced the prospect of another month sleeping outside with little more than an old, very thin sleeping bag to keep him warm.
Staying in the pods provided Mark with the freedom to interact with the other hostel guests whilst providing him with his own space. The pods provided him with a sense of security, safely surrounded by his own belongings. Mark further noted that the feeling of having somewhere to return to at the end of the day additionally brought a sense of normality to his life. Mark told Commonweal that this reminder, coupled with the privacy of the pod, had an aspirational impact on him, reinvigorating his sense of worth, whilst providing him with an additional drive to work towards finding more permanent accommodation.
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