Picnic Table House
‘If a free society cannot help the many who are poor it cannot save the few who are rich’
John F Kennedy
Most of us are only one or two events from homelessness. Loss of a job, family break downs, extended unemployment, common addictions such as gambling and alcohol can all accelerate one’s demise. The street can quite suddenly be the only choice for some people. The current global financial crisis is a contributing factor where ‘losing everything’ has literally meant the roof over their heads for many. Each year millions of pounds are spent on urban infrastructure projects in cities around the world. Bus shelters, tram stops, park benches and picnic tables, playgrounds, train and tube stations, waste and recycling bins, bicycle paths and parking are all commissioned and designed to improve our civic amenity and day to day existence. That is unless of course you are unfortunate enough to find yourself living on the streets. Without exception every piece of urban infrastructure designed across the globe has, as a key part of its brief – ‘make sure that homeless people can’t use it.’ Moulded plastic seats, closely spaced armrests, steel studs on benches all make it impossible to lie down and are deliberate design decisions. Constructed shelters such as bus and tram stops remain brightly lit well after public transport has stopped for the night to deter homeless people from having a few hours sleep under cover.
The Picnic Table House is a picnic table during the day that converts into a homeless shelter at night. The table top folds down and is supported on the bench seats to make a roof. A woven stainless steel mattress and protective frame is supported between the legs of the table. Survival kits, packed remotely by volunteer workers or emergency relief agencies can be locked into position under the bench seats either side of the mattress. The survival kits would contain separately food, bedding, hot drinks, a light and a first aid kid. Once emptied a survival pack becomes secure stowage while sleeping. The Picnic Table House would be the next in a series of prototypes produced by my office. Future Shack is an emergency house made from recycled shipping containers, Park Bench House is a park bench during the day and a basic bed and shelter at night and Bus Shelter House is a bus shelter until public transport stops for the night. It converts into a bed and the advertising hoarding houses blankets and hot drinks. We are currently working on the Dignified Rubbish Bin which is a bin that has a food container that allows restaurants to package and distribute leftover food to the homeless.