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How empathy can unlock innovation

Pioneering approaches to tackling homelessness

Pop up accommodation equipped with sensor technologies that can detect whether a person has stopped breathing is one of the innovative solutions being used to tackle homelessness in England.

Vital life signs sensors in what are called NAPpads harness microwave technology to monitor the wellbeing of people inside. By alerting emergency services to immediate health issues the system ensures responders have the best chance of saving a life.

Each room is fitted out with a ‘toilet, washing facilities, a security door, power point, insulation panels and a small electric heater and LED light’. Designed by Protectal, their use is now being piloted by the Salvation Army in York.

Jay, 19, who used to sleep rough, said: “It would have made such a difference to me – to have a warm bed, a locked door and safety. It would have meant not having to choose the street over a hostel.

“The technology to make sure you are safe is amazing. Knowing that it’s safe and if something goes wrong, someone is going to help you is a comfort. On the streets, if you can’t breathe nobody knows, nobody knows where you are and nobody can call for help. This will be life-saving.”

According to the designers a NAPpad needs about the same amount of energy a domestic light bulb runs on at night to power itself every day. The structures can also be moved easily to where they can be most effective.

Protectal Co-founder Pete Wood said: “It was vital that the pads offer dignity to occupants as well as helping manage potential risks to them. Potentially, many of the occupants will have been sleeping on the streets for some time and have poor health.

“Early deaths of people exposed to rough-sleeping are common. In residential accommodation, staff can monitor occupants and ensure they are safe. We wanted to offer the same level of care to those who would use the pods, even if only there for a night.

“We’ve worked with rough sleepers and sector professionals to get the design of the NAPpads right and ensure they are eco-friendly.” 

In England it is estimated that around 200,000 are homeless; a figure which does not account for people living in temporary accommodation, or those sofa surfing.

Net-zero solutions

The English city of Bristol is another urban centre integrating new and innovative solutions to fight homelessness. In a part of the city known as Hope Rise, homes have been built on stilts above a car park in what is termed a Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) development.

Pioneered by architect firm Zed Pods the homes use rooftop solar and low carbon technologies to offer social housing that is good for people and the planet.

“We are very pleased that Bristol City Council had the foresight to partner with us directly and are so enthusiastic about the potential for more developments like this. With momentum, quality modular housing can play a leading role in city centre provision,” said Dr Rehan Khodabuccus, Operations Director of Zed Pods.

Building on top of car parks is a smart way to overcome local land issues and other areas, including Bromley in London, are now investing in these modular structures that are both scalable and carbon neutral.

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Written By

Iain is a creative writer, journalist and lecturer, and formerly an editor of two international business publications. Iain is now editor of Innovators Magazine, as well as the strategic content director for OnePoint5Media.


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