At the site of any urban industrial port or railyard, you’ve seen them: stacked like giant Lego bricks are those unsightly metal shipping containers for transporting goods across the globe. They may not be pretty, but they’re incredibly useful for global trade.
In the United Kingdom, though, such metal shipping containers have found a new use: they’re being used to provide housing for the homeless.
Finding a safe and stable place for the homeless to sleep, store their belongings, and wash while seeking employment is a vital stepping stone for getting off the streets and back on their feet.
Which is where British-based charity Help Bristol’s Homeless comes in. Their creative new alternative to traditional homeless shelters takes those ugly, utilitarian shipping containers and transforms them into fully habitable, comfortable (but cozy) homes.
Help Bristol’s Homeless declares that their goal is to ensure that having a home is “not an entitlement” but a “RIGHT.” They provide homeless men and women who are approved fully furnished, clean dwellings for up to a year while they seek employment, while also supplying them with job hunting and addiction counseling.
The company’s website states: “Unlike many homeless charities, our ethos is that housing must come first, and then everything else comes after.”
Each shipping container is refurbished, with its own bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen installed, and is brightly painted—not unlike similar ones seen on home-reno TV programs and DIY social media channels.
“We are so grateful to all of the businesses involved in this project, which are helping to improve the lives of rough sleepers,” explained Bristol’s founder Jasper Thompson, who was spurred to start the project after seeing homeless sleeping on the streets.
Thompson once told BBC, “Everyone has their own front door key, it’s changed their lives already.”
Thompson stated that property management company Colliers International, alongside more local businesses like EDF Energy, Barratt Homes, and Balfour Beatty, has been helping to provide the manpower and funding for the initiative.
Thompson also mentioned that those who are accommodated in the containers have been referred to after assessment, as per Bristol Live.
He said, “They are also given opportunities to develop skills by helping in the conversion of the containers into homes.”
Tim Davies, head of South West and Wales at Colliers International, said: “This ambitious project takes that to a new level, as by helping to transform former shipping containers into temporary homes Colliers staff will also be helping to transform the lives of homeless people in Bristol.”
Shipping containers typically come in one of two sizes, measuring around 8 feet wide and spanning either 20 or 40 feet in length. The larger of the two containers, measuring just short of 400 square feet, isn’t much smaller than the average New York City studio apartment. And with fresh, simple furnishings and bright, cheerful paint jobs on the outside, they’re the perfect place to let someone stay while they work to turn their life around.
More enterprising companies have started selling similar “shipping container homes” as made-to-order dwellings, which would likely fall outside the price range most of the homeless can afford. The units cost about $50,000 apiece with adaptations like windows and other decorations installed. And with plenty of containers in circulation ready to go, Bristol’s may have hit on just the right thing to put to good new use.