This is the time of year when those experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable. For many, sleeping outside during winter seems crazy, never mind during a pandemic. Here in Canada, there are estimated to be at least 35,000 people living on the streets. While that may seem like a lot, it’s much worse in Germany with around 860,000 homeless.
That’s why in the German city of Ulm (120km west of Munich), a company called Ulmer Nest is doing what it can to help. It recently introduced a fleet of solar-powered sleep pods that can provide a safe place for people to keep warm during the cold.
The futuristic-looking pods — which were introduced in January as part of a pilot project — could soon be found across the whole of Germany. Each tiny cabin is made from wood and steel and can fit up to two people inside — or one person with a pet or luggage. The sleep pods are also waterproof, protect against the cold, wind, and humidity, and even have integrated solar panels to provide heating.
The sleep pods can be securely locked when inside and a motion sensor sends an alert to social workers when the doors are open. This is so the sleep pods can be professionally cleaned after each person leaves. The pods even have a radio network so that people can get in touch with the team overseeing the cabins if they need to.
These futuristic sleep pods aren’t intended to serve as alternative housing for the homeless. They’re meant as emergency accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go when shelters aren’t an option. And so far, the citizens of Ulm have welcomed the pods as a new addition to their streets.
“We’ve even seen some effects that we didn’t dream of, like neighbours providing the overnight guests with hot tea in the morning and such,” reveals Florian from the Ulmer Nest team. “Also, city officials were always very supportive and positive about the project, which helped us a lot. And then there’s a lot of those small moments when working on the [pods] out in the city, and people come up to say thank you (homeless and not homeless alike). That also means a lot actually.”
You can check out the Ulmer Nest pods and find out more about them on the company’s website.