Social Design: Re-purposing Buses as Homeless Shelters

Honolulu will convert retired city buses into facilities for homeless people. Some will be made into hostel-like sleep quarters, some into shower and bathroom facilities, and some into recreation areas. Hey, doesn’t everyone want a living room? Buses that have front and back doors can be subdivided into a duplex for couples and families.

I like this on so many social marketing levels.

The designs have been created so that buses can be converted using materials commonly found at a hardware store by people who have little or not training in construction. This enables volunteer groups to contribute labor, which brings down the costs, involves the community, and potentially helps non-profit organizations carry out their missions. Habitat for Humanity is potentially interested in organizing the labor.

Because the buses are mobile, they can be moved to where the need is greatest, as opposed to forcing homeless people, who often don’t have many transportation options, to find ways to get to a shelter. This is a clever play on distribution.

The city of Honolulu has 70 buses that they can donate to the effort, and they hope to have the first bus conversions ready this year.

This post continues the topic of re-purposing buses, begun a couple weeks ago. It also shows how good design thinking can trump lack of budget, skilled labor, land, buildings and many other obstacles that often crop up around solving social and public challenges.

(Image: “HNL Wiki Wiki Bus” by Andrew Laing. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons)

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