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Friday, December 21, 2007

Temporary, Low Cost Homeless Solution

Combination Bike Tent Cargo Trailer Offers Shelter & More
by Philippe Lucas

One of the challenges in addressing homelessness is that the street population is made up of many different individuals with different needs, goals and abilities. Even when both shelter space and social assistance are available, there remains a segment of the homeless population that refuses to engage these services, preferring autonomy to charity or shelter, and choosing modest income generation rather than government assistance.

A Short-term, Compassionate, Community-based Homeless Solution
Recognizing that even the most autonomous of our street population deserve support, the MOTHERS Project is an effort to provide short-term shelter for 25 members of the street population in Victoria, British Columbia.

Mobile, Bike Based Trailer/Shelters
Combination bike tent and cargo trailerThe project focus is to distribute a unique bicycle tent-cargo trailer to individuals that do not currently use shelter space. Produced by Tony's Trailers (www.tonystrailers.ca), a few of these trailers have already been distributed to members of our homeless population who are using them both as shelter (the trailers, pictured below, fold out into a one-person tent), and for income generation ranging from binning (collecting recyclables from industrial garbage bins), to compost collection, to messenger services. 25 tent-trailers will be distributed over a three month period; 15 will also come with a used bicycle.

Tracking Project Performance
Prior to distributing the trailers, a quality of life assessment will be performed with each participant. The assessment will be re-administered four weeks later to identify statistically significant changes and to assess the overall success of the project. Additionally, two community seminars on this project will be organized by MOTHERS coordinators. These meetings will bring together the public, press, policy-makers, homeless, service and health providers, and university-based researchers to discuss homelessness, poverty, and the economic and environmental benefits of binning. During the first seminar, the project will be introduced to the public; during the second seminar, the results of this project will be shared and discussed.

Community Based, Professionally Administered Project
This is a community-based project, and the recruiting and actual distribution of these bike tent- cargo trailers would be done through the Committee to End Homelessness in Victoria, a highly experienced volunteer group of individuals that include members of Victoria's homeless population as well as their allies in the community. The proposal calls for the distribution of these bicycles to take place at a rate of eight per month for three months, with 1/3rd of the units being made available to aboriginal applicants. The modest pace of implementation will allow the project administrators and the general public to observe and address any project impact on street people as well as the overall community.

Low Cost, Immediate Solution
Although broad-based, long-term solutions are necessary to address the ever-growing social justice and public health issue that is homelessness, providing short-term shelter to those with the greatest immediate need and the opportunity for this group to earn a legitimate income justifies the one time, $26,000 cost of the MOTHERS program.

Philippe Lucas
MOTHERS Project Administrator
Graduate Research Fellow - Center for Addictions Research of B.C.

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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Fighting Homelessness By Bicycle

A temporary yet innovative & cost effective solution to the homeless crisis.

by Larry Lagarde

Homeless with Tony HoarLike 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
Reference: Wikipedia

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