Homelessness is widespread across the globe, even in developed countries. There are people living in dumpsters or on the streets who are denied basic necessities of life. Architects should think beyond iconic buildings and explore the potential of this noble profession to solve greater issues and create social reform. Check out our 5 Innovative Homeless Shelters to gain insight into how we, as architects, can provide a better lifestyle to the less fortunate in our communities using simple low-budget solutions.

1. The Penthouse 

Courtesy of Jeremy Carmen, Jayson Champlain, Heeje Yang and Joseph Chang

The penthouse was designed by 4 architecture students for their 4th-year project, ‘The Homeless Studio’. They decided to scavenge junk outside of warehouses and in the garbage to build this homeless shelter.

Courtesy of Jeremy Carmen, Jayson Champlain, Heeje Yang and Joseph Chang

An old truck canopy was used to provide ready-made windows and a protective roof. The remaining part of the shelter was completed with planks, plywood and mannequin parts.

Courtesy of Jeremy Carmen, Jayson Champlain, Heeje Yang and Joseph Chang

The project serves as an inspiration for all architecture schools to dedicate a studio or two for such humanitarian causes

2. Home Dome

Courtesy of Max Wallack

The igloo-looking shelter was designed by an Eco-friendly 12-year-old kid, Max Wallack. Little Max stole the limelight at the ‘Trash-to-Treasure’ Contest with his Home Dome made of trash, basically. He filled a plastic bag with packing peanuts and created a dome-like structure using wires. The resulting design surprisingly provided good insulation against the weather.

Courtesy of Max Wallack

This creative homeless shelter got Max a Dell laptop and 10 thousand bucks which will hopefully be used to further his innovations for social good.

3. Homeless Push Cart

Courtesy of Paul Elkin

Paul Elkin designed the Homeless Push Cart in response to the ‘Shelter-in-a-cart’ challenge on Designboom. The shelter has lockable wheels so it may act as a cart for collecting recyclables during the day, and become a private shelter at night.

Courtesy of Paul Elkin

The inside contains folding furniture, a mattress, and even a kitchen and a toilet. A cooler made from two old water dispensers is fitted in a cabinet with 2″ foam and a space blanket surrounding it. It can refrigerate water and food by adding a few ice cubes which drain down a tube to the ground when melted.

Courtesy of Paul Elkin

Elkin didn’t stop there. He also added a rain-catching roof with a valve system to collect water for domestic use. His Shelter design takes care of pretty much all basic needs. We look up to you, Elkin!

4. Wheelly

Courtesy of Zo-Loft

Zo-Loft’s Wheelly is a wheel-shelter mix which acts as a luggage wheel that can transform into an intimate shelter within a blink of an eye!

Wheelly is an aluminum rolling frame which contains two folding polyester tents made from household items. It has the capacity to hold up to 250 pounds of items. The push handle also functions as a brake to make it stand as an insulated shelter for the homeless.

Courtesy of Zo-Loft

The company regards the luggage cart idea as a status symbol:

“As the businessman is the one with the overnight bag; the homeless will be the one with colored wheel, no more a beggar.”

5. Tiny House

Courtesy of Elvis Summers

Elvis had a fervent desire to help a destitute neighbor, Irene Smokie McGee, who used to collect garbage from his bins and sleep in the dirt. He soon came across an article about building tiny houses using discarded objects which greatly inspired him to build one for Smokie.

Courtesy of Elvis Summers

Summers assembled a parking-space-sized shelter with wheels at the bottom and installed lights and windows in it. He also introduced a lockable door to Smokie’s new residence for extra security and comfort. The elderly woman felt dignified as soon as she took the keys.

Courtesy of Jo Kwon

Elvis and Smokie did Good Morning Britain in 2015:

2 years ago, Elvis Summers started the non-profit “My Tiny House Project LA” at Go Fund Me. This project involves building tiny houses and distributing them among the homeless. Over 40 tiny houses have been given out so far. Way to go, Elvis!

  • Mahnoor qasim

    This makes me wonder why am i not doing this!👌🏽

  • Moaz

    The article looks great. Definitely improved my knowledge as someone who has an interest in architecture. Loved the idea behind homeless push cart. Also, the website is great all in all. Keep up the good work guys.

  • Mash

    The article is amazing and truly inspiring. The content is presented in a very captivating and easy-to-understand way. It had my attention till the end. I wish more architects thought about building for those in need.

  • Maimoona

    I’m really very inspred by your idea.
    There should be such type of shelters in every country.
    Great thinking, well done!

  • Abigail

    First, I applaud your efforts to publish real material.
    I do believe a number of architects share your passion to help society and change lives – like Cameron Sinclair, the founder of Architecture for Humanity.
    Have a good day

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