Waking up on a Christmas morning, with cold stone under your head, biting winds driving you deeper into a comfortless cluster of blankets or cardboard: it's not what Christmas is supposed to be about. But this year, more people than ever, all of them our fellow human beings, will be doing just that: facing their first Christmas outside, with nobody to talk to, nowhere to go, and nowhere to call home. Crisis at Christmas(www.crisis.org.uk) estimates more than 200,000 households in the UK, the fifth richest economy in the world, will be struggling with the worst effects of homelessness this Christmas: sleeping on the street, shivering in sheds and garages or, at best, bunked up night by night on a sofa, with no access to any kind of support network.
You might think about that, in fact I’m sure you will, as you nibble into your mince pies by the fire…
But there is a better, more caring, way forward: and as with so much else we’ve seen over these last few difficult years, it means drawing on the best modern technology has to offer.
A New Paradigm
Starting with the basics… such a compelling need for new housing simply can’t wait the seven or eight months it takes to build a conventional home, using conventional technologies: marshalling bricks and concrete, building outside in the middle of winter, in fields of mud and rusting girders, rained off more days than makes sense, and lumbering forward like a landlocked dinosaur. The homeless haven’t got that luxury of time. But modular construction is the new paradigm: crafted offsite in climate controlled conditions, a modular building is prefabricated and ready to assemble on site, twice as fast as its traditional dinosaur counterpart.
And the good news is, that’s exactly what’s happening…right now, and in England.
Ten homeless people moved into new homes in Reading last month: each of them given one of forty modular buildings, made available by the local Council at a cost of £2 Million, which compares favourably with the £6 million it would have cost to construct conventional housing units (leaving aside the fact they wouldn’t have been ready on time): because modular construction costs less than a third of its mud based alternative.
And for each of those forty people, they now have a real chance to rebuild their lives: they won’t be waking up on a cold pavement at Christmas, which is a first step towards breaking the cruel cycle of rough sleeping.
The new residents will benefit too from support provided by the Council’s Partner, St Mungo’s(www.mungos.org): with case workers available 24/7, helping with the systemic issues so often attendant on recent homelessness, and encouraging attendance at a Recovery College to provide assistance in getting back into work. Counselling is also available for issues ranging from social isolation to all too prevalent mental health concerns. Modular housing makes it all possible…
And if you think that’s just motherhood and apple pie, think again: just listen to what Jamie says, a thirty five year old, recently rescued from the streets and welcomed to his new modular home in Reading:
“My first night was lovely: I have heating I can control, and a proper bed, a fridge. This is a dream for all homeless people. It was a weird feeling being inside after so long sleeping outside. Every Borough should have a project like this. I’m like a kid at Christmas. This is the start of my life, welcome to paradise.”
It's a lesson worth learning, and the pattern is being replicated across the planet…there are currently more than 1.7 Million homeless in India (www.hlrn.org.in), which is almost certainly a radical understatement of the true scale of the problem. Modular construction offers hope and happiness on a new scale.
Just listen to Jamie…
Christmas is fast approaching: it's time to think about what we’re doing to our planet, and how it’s affecting our fellow citizens. We should and can do better, and Modular Construction is part of the process.