Fighting Homelessness By Bicycle
A temporary yet innovative & cost effective solution to the homeless crisis.
by Larry Lagarde
Like a modern day Man of La Mancha, some would say that Tony Hoar is chasing windmills. For two years, this cycling advocate and former Tour de France rider has been testing the use of bikes and special bike trailers to provide shelter, dignity and income for the homeless. Now, social activists in Victoria, Canada are working to take Tony's plan to the next level. (Photo: Homeless with Tony Hoar)
Compared to the rest of the country, Victoria is one of the most pleasant places to live in all of Canada. The climate is sunnier, drier and warmer, leading many Canadians to relocate here but also resulting in a disproportionately high homeless population. Despite the best efforts by established charities like the Salvation Army, the homeless problem is not getting better. If anything, it's about to explode.
Next month on January 22nd, a legal challenge that is over 2 years in the making could overturn Victoria's vagrancy laws, making it illegal for authorities to harass the homeless for sleeping outdoors. City leaders fear that this would make Victoria even more inviting to Canada's homeless; however, Tony Hoar has a plan and an invention that could reverse the crisis. Homeless love it too.
JourneyMan Bicycle Trailer
For the homeless, the JourneyMan is a godsend. A cart, bike trailer, portable shelter, storage container, recycling platform and income source all in one, the JourneyMan is an ingenious tool that simultaneously addresses many issues which keep people homeless.
Folded, the JourneyMan provides flat space for homeless to carry their belongings as well as other items (like recyclables, newspapers, groceries, etc.) so they can make a living. Unfolded, the JourneyMan's flat space doubles; becoming a platform for a tent.
In the words of one homeless person that tested the JourneyMan trailer/shelter, it's "the greatest thing anybody has ever done. You're off the ground, you can put your stuff inside. You're warm and out of the wind. It only takes a couple minutes to put up, a couple minutes to bring down. The police don't harass you. It could make the homeless people's lives a lot better."
Tony Hoar sees even more benefits. "The JourneyMan helps the homeless rebuild their dignity and self worth. As a shelter, it provides privacy, a place for belongings, and a level of safety/security. By eliminating the need for homeless to steal a shopping cart to store their things, it decriminalizes and rehabilitates, allowing authorities to focus on other tasks. There's little maintenance and it's a lot cheaper than a room."
Though the JourneyMan costs $700 a piece to produce, a fleet of these trailer/shelters would be highly visible, making advertising on the sides of the trailer a viable way to recoup costs and even profit from maintaining such a fleet. With advertisers in place, homeless could purchase a JourneyMan at a highly subsidized cost. A portion of the ad revenue could be paid to the homeless on a monthly or biweekly basis; such payment would require bringing the cart in for inspection, ensuring that the cart and ads remain in top condition.
Led by Philippe Lucas, a group of social activists in Victoria is filing for a $25,000 grant to construct and maintain 25+ JourneyMan mobile shelters for distribution to "binners", a homeless subculture of individuals that pick recyclables from trash bins around Victoria and sell them back for the bottle deposit fees. If the grant is approved, Tony is ready to begin production.
Definition of Homeless:
(1) an individual who lacks a fixed, regular, and adequate nighttime residence; and (2) an individual who has a primary nighttime residence that is: A) supervised publicly or privately operated shelter designed to provide temporary living accommodations (including welfare hotels, congregate shelters, and transitional housing for the mentally ill); B) an institution that provides a temporary residence for individuals intended to be institutionalized; or C) a public or private place not designed for, or ordinarily used as, a regular sleeping accommodations for human beings.
Reference: United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
Main causes of homelessness:
* Lack of affordable housing
* Substance abuse and lack of needed services
* Mental illness and lack of needed services
* Domestic violence
* Poverty, caused by many factors
* Prison release and re-entry into society
* Lack of affordable healthcare
* Natural Disaster
Other major causes:
* Adjusting from forces to civilian life
* Fleeing care
* Asylum seekers