Housing crisis

Sleeping cabins are revolutionizing Australia’s housing crisis

This Queensland community organization is tackling homelessness with Japanese-style ‘pod’ housing.

Founded by Helen Youngberry in 2018 and developed over three years, Goodna Street Life sleeping pods are designed to provide temporary crisis housing for individuals and families facing homelessness.

Each pod is slightly larger than a one-size-fits-all mattress, crafted from aluminum and lightweight, weather-resistant MDF with doors that lock and a window that opens for fresh air.

Powered by solar panels, the pods also feature USB chargers, working lights, and include a mattress and bedding.

But what makes temporary housing work is that Goodna Street Life offers tenants one-on-one counseling to secure a pathway to permanent housing.

“(Pods) are not solutions to long-term homelessness, they are temporary solutions to tackle the streets,” Vice President Steven Purcell told news.com.au.

“To address that initial first step with someone – whether it’s a family breakdown, domestic violence or abuse, whether it’s just being evicted from a property after hours normal workplaces or in a shared home of someone who was already staying in an unsafe space – if they find themselves homeless after hours, they don’t need to go find a park to sleep in.

“They can come to our house and they can have a secure bed for the night and then in the morning we can help them with a meal and support services to start identifying what happened, what the situation is and what is the best way to actually solve homelessness for that particular person.

Homelessness on the rise

With nearly 20,000 people homeless in Queensland and an estimated 290,000 people homeless nationwide, that number is only expected to rise.

After the pandemic changed the global economy, recent flooding displaced thousands of people on Australia’s east coast and interest rates rose – the number of people who were left homeless for the first times increased.

Since launching the services, Goodna Street Life has set up six pods in an area called Helen’s Haven, but has faced 15 calls a day and demand for their services has tripled – they are looking to set up another eight pods.

“We have more and more families or people calling to say that my landlord has raised the rent, or that he is selling the property and he has given me notice to leave and that I have not still haven’t found a place to go, Mr. Purcell said.

“At the same time, storing people who were in this situation 12 months ago and who are still sleeping in their cars because they have nowhere to go – I’m talking about families with children.”

Squeak. Spit. And a whole lot of bureaucracy

Providing access to temporary housing is not a revolutionary idea when it comes to tackling homelessness.

But what sets Goodna Street Life apart from most other services, including government programs and services, is how well coordinated efforts are.

Mr Purcell said how “fractured” the current system is, with complex cases of homelessness “often slipping through the cracks”.

On top of that, bureaucratic processes such as the emphasis on meeting KPIs, meeting quotas and the lengthy application process meant that people facing the immediate threat of homelessness could find themselves in the streets for weeks before an appointment to resolve their situation could be made. .

“We have so many stories of us trying to provide support to people calling youth services and they tell us they only have one bed for an 18 year old male – so they have to come into this specific category in order to access a bed because that is what the service is funded for,” he added.

“So the real problem with the current format is that public housing is so restrictive and doesn’t have the flexibility to deal with the crisis.”

“But Helen and I and the team here – we’re the decision-makers in the organization where the people who make the beds, we clean the toilets, we provide the psychological support, were in direct contact with the people who need help every day so that we are able to react and respond to the crisis,” he added.

The most vulnerable Australians remain on the streets

Mr Purcell said Australia’s housing system was failing the “most vulnerable”.

While the real success of the temporary pod housing system lies in its ability to provide targeted counselling, Mr Purcell said it also highlighted the depth of how homelessness can wreak havoc on people.

He recalled how a woman spoke to him after he successfully moved her from family crisis housing to permanent housing, confessing that she once considered taking her own life after facing homelessness.

“She felt she had let her children down that she couldn’t get help and that she was going to end up on the streets with her children – her nine-month-old baby and two children with special needs, the non-verbal autism – living in a garage, then the next step was being on the streets,” he said.

“It was devastating for her to be in this situation…but then she stayed with us in emergency accommodation for a week.”

“One of the things that I find most shocking and difficult to understand is how this can happen in a country like ours – which is so rich and lucky and lucky and we do a lot of great things that we are proud.

“But the housing system has really failed the most vulnerable people who are really being pushed out of the private housing market – it’s single mothers trying to care for high needs children, children with disabilities and they are physical, intellectual or psychosocial disabilities; older people… and people with complex mental health issues.

More support needed for pod housing

As Australia’s housing crisis worsens, Mr Purcell said they hoped to expand their services not just in the Sunshine State, but across the country.

“We looked to find partnership opportunities with other organizations that could replicate our model,” he said.

“We can provide all of our systems and our processes and the intellectual property of what we do and how we do it to other organizations that can act in this mode of immediate crisis response to provide this additional accommodation.”

But while the Goodna Street Life organization is keen to share its methods and services, Mr Purcell said the heart of any expansion must prioritize the individual safety of homeless people rather than an opportunity to profit of the situation.

“There is a very high risk in any of these spaces for security and that is where I think there is a lot of bureaucracy and sometimes that bureaucracy is necessary to create security,” he said. he adds.

“So we have to be really creative and really flexible and we rely heavily on community support and private sector donations to help us continue, so it would be great if we had like more land more homes or opportunities to create spaces.”

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