Despite the wondrous leaps and bounds that we’ve made in the past century alone, homelessness is still a pervasive problem across the globe and in the United States. On any given night across America, 553,742 people are without a place to sleep and approximately 17 out of 10,000 citizens are considered homeless. While the causes of homelessness come in many forms, the solutions don’t have to be complicated. Pop up houses for homeless individuals are one such solution that has shown a great amount of promise, and it embodies a proven strategy to mitigate homeless rates. To understand more about both the problem and how this specific solution is helping, here is what you need to know.
The Homeless Problem in America
A little over half a million people are currently experiencing homelessness in the United States. Out of this number, 70% are individuals living on their own or with other adults, and 30% are families with children. While many shelters exist for those without a permanent residence, still one out of every two homeless individuals is unsheltered and without a place to sleep.
In 2020, the problem of homelessness became exacerbated by the worldwide pandemic outbreak of Covid-19. This meant that already vulnerable populations were being put in greater danger by being left without a safe hygienic place to stay or quarantine. To make problems even worse, research has shown that homeless individuals age faster than those with homes. Often they will exhibit physical conditions of people 15 to 20 years older than them. Couple this with the nearly 203,000 people who are homeless over the age of 50, and they fall easily into the group considered most vulnerable to Covid-19. Even nearly a year after the initial American outbreak, Los Angeles homeless shelters face a crisis of case outbreaks with nowhere safe to isolate or quarantine infected homeless individuals. Some even speculate that homeless rates will rise drastically due to rampant job loss, forced unemployment, and evictions. To combat this, an abundance of easy to construct and reliable shelters will be needed to help keep people off of the streets.
While overcrowded shelters are one problem, the problem of unsheltered homelessness is additionally concerning since in many instances it leaves people vulnerable on streets or in unsafe buildings that have been either abandoned or condemned. This can put people at risk of attack, injury, or even death from unsafe environments or inclement weather. To combat this particularly terrible aspect of homelessness, pop up houses for homeless people seek to remove the need for unsafe sheltering and instead give people a safe place to get back on their feet.
How Pop Up Houses for Homeless People Can Help
Offering shelter to combat homelessness is not a new idea. In fact, Finland has sharply decreased its rate of homelessness by employing a “Housing First” strategy in 2008. Individuals struggling with homelessness in Finland are given a small apartment space, along with counseling, to help them regain their footing and get back to a stable way of life. Housing and counseling are received without any preconditions, and the results have been promising thus far. Four out of every five people can get back on their feet and find stable income and housing after taking part in the project.
Here in America, while we don’t have a government strategy to match Finland, we do have independent organizations seeking to help combat homelessness with housing. One such company is Pallet.
What Pallet is Doing to Help
Pallet is a social purpose company that seeks to help combat homelessness by creating equal opportunity access to housing and employment. Recognizing that stable shelter can make the largest impact towards helping individuals out of homelessness, Pallet strives to invest in people instead of profits.
Offering both housing and employment opportunities, Pallet is taking a page out of the Finnish model of ending homelessness, and thus far it has helped change a multitude of lives for the better.
Pallet, as a company, fills many roles. It can be seen both as a humanitarian company, a manufacturing engineering company, and a disaster relief company. However, as opposed to many disaster restoration companies who focus mainly on natural disasters, Pallet focuses on the disaster that is unsheltered homelessness. Their pop up houses for homeless individuals come in two different sizes, 64 and 100 square feet. These shelters can be quickly and easily set up within an hour, which is a far cry from the months or years that traditional shelters can take. These shelters are also designed to be private, safe, and comfortable.
Every pallet shelter is designed with a locking door so that residents can feel safe sleeping within. They also won’t need to worry about leaving valuable possessions inside, as they can have peace of mind that they’re behind a locked door. This frees them up to engage with the community, attend job interviews, or shop for food without worrying about possessions being left in an unsecured place.
The shelters can come with up to four folding bunks to accommodate multiple individuals, something that homeless families with multiple members can take advantage of. They can similarly feature integrated shelving systems and desks. All surfaces are created from easy to disinfect and clean materials, making them perfect for staying healthy during the ongoing health crisis. Surfaces are likewise designed to be mold, mildew, and pest resistant. This means that residents won’t have to worry about ant control or mold clean up on top of getting back on their feet.
Additionally, these shelters can come with heating installation if located in colder climates or air conditioning service in hotter climates. This can help keep residents safe during freezing winters or especially hot summers. Hypothermia and heatstroke can pose serious dangers to people with to place to shelter. Maricopa County alone reported 197 heat-related deaths in 2019, and nearly 700 people experiencing homelessness across the nation die annually of hypothermia. By allowing people to have safe access to heating and cooling, Pallet shelters help mitigate the risk of injury and death related to temperature and weather-based dangers.
All of Pallet’s pop up houses for homeless communities also feature a sturdy metal roof, which is capable of holding up to 25 lbs per square foot of snow, and electrical wiring that can be optimized for both municipal or generator use. The only things missing from these shelters are bathrooms and kitchens. This is because these shelters are meant to be used in a community setting where these facilities exist on-site from communal use. All Pallet shelter communities must have shared shower and bathroom facilities on site, akin to what is commonly found at summer camps or college dormitories. While not a luxury bathroom, these facilities are clean and easily accessible.
The main reason that bathrooms aren’t included is due to the fact that shelters without them are easier to construct and more cost-effective for communities and human services agencies. A communal bathroom facility is easier to maintain and set up than individual plumbing for 50 separate shelters. This means that the shelters can be quickly and easily set up and used without the delay of needing extensive plumbing set up. Delays like this can be highly detrimental when it comes to creating usable shelter for someone sleeping in unsafe conditions.
Creating Second Chances
Along with creating pop up houses for homeless individuals, Pallet also helps give second chances to those who have previously been down on their luck. All shelters are built by employees who have previously been homeless, addicted, or incarcerated. These employees, who have previously been in the same place as the people they are building shelters for, are now able to use their new skills to help others get out of homelessness and into a more stable way of life. The skills taught by Pallet aren’t only useful for employment through them either. In fact, they can be translated to numerous positions in the construction industry. This means that employees can gain marketable skills that they can use in a variety of ways to ensure that they will never risk unemployment or homelessness again.
Similarly, Pallet also seeks to hone other valuable skills, especially since many may not have had the chance to learn certain useful life abilities. For instance, they often have experts come into their manufacturing headquarters to advise employees on specific skills such as opening bank accounts, managing funds, saving, or obtaining identification cards.
For employees who need additional support, Pallet also features a team specially tasked with helping employees get through any roadblocks and speed bumps that life may throw at them. This can help prevent them from falling into homelessness once again or lapsing back into addiction.
Investing in People
At its heart, Pallet is a company that revolves around people. Far from just being a custom home builder business, Pallet approaches the disaster that is homelessness with the goal of uplifting those who have fallen through the cracks. They recognize that obtaining a safe place to shelter is one of the best ways to help get people out of homelessness and into a place where they can take back control of their lives. As opposed to selling unobtainable housing options, Pallet invests in people, both those who work for them and those who live in the pop up houses for homeless individuals that they’ve constructed. As a company, they strive to build people up, giving them a meaningful form of employment, livable wages, and tangible skills that can make them valuable members of the construction and manufacturing industries. By taking these steps, they have helped demonstrate a concrete strategy to help lower the rate of homelessness, a strategy that is similar to the already proven “Housing First” program used in Finland.
Solving the Problem One Community at a Time
Pallet has numerous communities, many based on the west coast, although more are being gradually set up across the country. Thus far, communities exist in six states, with developing communities in four other. States with active communities include Washington, Oregon, California, Texas, Minnesota, and Hawaii. Developing communities are being set up in Arkansas, Missouri, Virginia, and Rhode Island.
To highlight how much of a difference these pop up houses for homeless individuals can make, consider the community of shelters built in Riverside, California. With more than 400 unsheltered people in the city as of January 2020, the city moved fast and was able to establish an emergency shelter community with 30 shelters being constructed in only four days. Transforming an otherwise unremarkable parking lot, this community quickly became a saving grace to many without a safe place to call their own. Featuring heating and air conditioning, security, 24-hour management, and well-maintained washroom facilities, this Riverside community is the perfect example of how quickly these shelters can be set up and how beneficial they can be.
Everyone Deserves a Safe Secure Shelter
When all is said and done, homelessness will continue to persist until it is agreed that all people have the right to a safe place to live. However, while that radical change may be centuries off, there are still substantial differences that can be enacted today. By investing in people and giving them the tools they need to succeed, companies like Pallet help break the cycle of homelessness and instead give people hope for the future. Whether in the form of pop up houses for homeless communities or employment for those getting back on their feet, the evidence shows that a helping hand can go a long way towards creating the opportunities that so many struggling individuals need.