mobile homeless shelter
mobile homeless shelter
mar 23, 2010

mobile homeless shelter

full view of the mobile homeless shelter


design enthusiast, paul elkins, develops mobile units, and other small scale vehicles. he previously designed the burning man bicycle camper and his latest development is a mobile homeless shelter which he designed as part of a competition asking individuals to meet the demands of the rapidly growing homeless society – a kind of substitute for the grocery cart situation. elkins wanted his design construction to be a simple, light weight, water tight insulated box on wheels, built with an area for displaying and selling handmade wares.



mobile homeless shelter construction of the mobile homeless shelter



the shelter weighs 225 pounds when empty. the roof acts as a rain catcher. when it starts raining, a valve is turned to stop the flow of water to the collection tank to allow debris to be flushed from the roof. after a minute of this cleaning process, the valve can be turned back on and collect free water. when the tankis full, it has an overflow feature which allows excess water to drain to the ground.



mobile homeless shelter the cart being built



mobile homeless shelter still under construction – interior view



the shelter includes a sleeping / resting area, a kitchen and makeshift washroom.



mobile homeless shelter kitchen area



mobile homeless shelter kitchen area



mobile homeless shelter spigot installed over the sink



mobile homeless shelter overview of the kitchen and sitting area



mobile homeless shelter simple storage solutions



mobile homeless shelter a louver adjustment will be installed at the rear of the vehicle by the two vents in case of strong winds



mobile homeless shelter a cooler is built into the kitchen counter, made from a two gallon water dispenser



mobile homeless shelter this area is meant to act as a night stand, with a small storage compartment below



mobile homeless shelter toilet seat storage and bucket. the mid section of the floor is movable which allows for ample room for use of the bucket.



mobile homeless shelter interior view – kitchen transformed into a sitting area



mobile homeless shelter demonstrating how to push the cart



mobile homeless shelter preliminary computer sketch



mobile homeless shelter preliminary computer sketch

  • A homeless person with a laptop? I don’t think this was designed by someone on the streets …

    matblak says:
  • Didn’t you know all homeless people are now given free laptops and [url=]iPhones[/url]. Its the law!

    jeff says:
  • it is fantastic

    forter says:
  • Jeff is quite right – with food and beverage apps

    bum says:
  • Looks flammable…

    jimb says:
  • I absolutely love you for thinking about the homeless in this was,you are a soul connected to mine to think in this way,i have been inventing in my mind for years just what you have made here,please show me everything about it and who you are,you are a hero…[email protected]

    Ronelda Cahill says:
  • The difficulty a homeless person would have is that it would be stolen the minute they left it unattended. If someone takes your shopping cart you can just go get another one. Nice idea, but it just doesn’t seem practical.
    You could always use it as a travel trailer for a motorbike instead!

    daniel says:
  • re: the laptop
    well, looking at his web-site, i think the sketches are just other ways the unit could be adapted.

    i like the idea and its simplicity. definitely needs some refining, but i like seeing the prototype and how the interior space is utilized. thanks for sharing.

    jeffrey b. says:
  • Thoughtful Design for flat plain living… a molded carbon-fiber frame and bike conversion capability could be an upgrade for mobility. Great idea for the push-cart homeless…but I agree about the laptop, that’s stretching it a bit.

    Pirate Patriot says:
  • Looks like a death trap. I’m pretty sure most homeless people would be too claustrophobic and/or paranoid to get inside of this for 2 minutes.

    llkandme says:
  • Take a look at the locks. They are on the outside!!!

    Brad says:
  • As a contraption i like it but why do anything to buy into homelessness? If you give a person this he/she might just use it, when the real aim is to make people unhomeless. Find new ways for employment so they can get out of boxes. Meantime, its flammable, easily stolen or vandalized. Safety is the prime consideration for a homeless person. Also, how is one to push this up and down grades–no motor, no brakes. With rain or flood, it could be abandoned and then these litter the cities, empty? Then it becomes another eco-disaster. With a change of wheels its an excellent motorcyclists camper but not for homeless whose needs and predicaments are not addressed here. It might have application for disaster emergency but even then, tents have filled that need. The solution for the shopping cart isnt this, its a job and real home. Is this what its come to, thousands of these boxes lining streets of cities and this is how we live? God help us. In all seriousness, we shouldnt build this box, we should take homeless into our homes and help them get a leg-up in life–quickly. Please not this.

    charles says:
  • Notwithstanding what i already said that puts me against this project, the box itself is far too heavy and isnt made from eco-friendly, renewable materials. I would have built a bamboo base and fabric or other upper section so that it could be light and folded flat. I didnt first read that its 225lbs and thats crazy. The problem of this designer is that he is old-school and probably made a lot of projects like this around his house during the past 40 years. He isnt 21st century and neither is the box. But since he obviously has high skills as a carpenter and cabinetmaker, the trick is to bring himself up-to-date and use the skills in better ways.

    charles says:
  • wow, charles, why dont you try designing something better instead of tearing apart what is much better than what the have now.

    not-charles says:
  • I assume this is a prototype and several valid concerns have been raised. My suggestion would be to permanently affix a can/bottle opener. Homelessness, while certainly exacerbated by current ecconomics, is not always about having a job.

    D. Barber says:
  • People who have worked with the homeless know that over 50% are chronically homeless due to mental illness & therefore unemployable. They used to be cared for in institutions until federal funding was cut off by Pres. Reagan in the ’80s. They need society’s understanding, compassion & care. Others are temporarily homeless due to loss of employment or substance abuse (or both) – of these, many have chosen homelessness as a lifestyle (no responsibility). Many homeless people are simply old & no longer employable, but have no money nor family to help them. Paul’s design would be useful at 24/7 shelters without beds for those who are not mentally ill.

    Moms Hugs says:
  • PS: Even if Paul has included a portable toilet, the waste must be disposed. Human waste disposal is a significant problem with homeless people. Haiti’s tent cities are now rife with disease as a result.

    Moms Hugs says:
  • This is great. It is one way of easing the hardships of poverty. Obviously not an excuse to ignore homelessness, but a good band-aid until we get our act together.

    One way to improve security would be to have areas where homeless people can park these at night together, so they can protect each other. A government interested in easing homelessness could dedicate some land where people could live in these. An NGO could put up some money to buy these or subsidize the price.

    You could build modules that can be added onto it depending on a homeless person’s level of income such as electricity generation via solar.

    This is obviously a prototype, but when you decide to take this to production you could mold the whole thing out of plastic, which is durable and fire resistant.

    If you wanted to start a business manufacturing these (there are many people who are homeless, but not jobless) I’m sure that there would be plenty of government grants (free money you don’t have to pay back) you could get.

    cwsm says:
  • Think the “burning man bicycle camper” is a better, all-round design. It’s a lot lighter at 100lbs and looks to be more comfortable as well. d;-)

    Jetwax says:
  • Doesn’t something like this already exist. Aren’t they using Rollaway cots with tent attached somewhere in California.

    lewn says:
  • I think this is a great idea! Obviously it’s in its first stages. Thank you so much for sharing this with us and thinking outside the box!

    Rebecca M says:
  • I have a tent and sleeping bag that weigh six pounds…you can carry them anywhere you want

    Steven says:
  • Great! Until six or eight bored miscreants decide to push you over the edge of the viaduct after a terrifying ride through the deserted city streets.

    Waker Glass says:
  • Great! Until six or eight bored miscreants decide to push you over the edge of the viaduct after a terrifying ride through the deserted city streets.

    Waker Glass says:
  • Maybe a pitched roof that doesnt trap and hold rain water; ultimately deteriorating the wood.

    Deneice Raisinclit says:
  • i think what is needed here is that a downtown core or any place with large numbers of homelessness exists. is the area be flooded with these through a government incentive. so that there wouldn’t be a need for one person to steal the dwelling from another. i think this is an example of someone really trying to help with obviously some creative ingenuity. someone trying to help out is far and few between unfortunately. thanks for caring.

    oh and for the haters..go sleep on the cement for a few nights. see how that works for ya..

    angela says:
  • WHat`s the price of this cart? I strongly doubt you find one homeless who would prefer buying this “caravan cart” instead of booze… However, I appreciate author`s innovative idea. Have never thought about living in a slightly modified shopping cart… 😀
    BTW, cart`s weight 225 pounds (cca. 112,5 kg) is too heavy for daily usage and homeless owning this caravan cart would have to push/pull this cart everywhere with him, not leaving it out of sight. Homelesses would need to lok like Rambo to be strong enough… 😛

    Psycho says:
  • I can tell by this contraption that the inventor has never spent a single night homeless. As a homeless person, I would never use something like this, and I don’t know anyone who would.

    Why? Well, the reasons should be obvious to anyone who spends more than two seconds thinking about it.

    A. Security. – This box is about as secure as a paper bag. Not only is it poorly constructed out of easily breakable materials, it’s a huge target for police and other trouble makers. In addition, anything left inside would be stolen the moment it’s left unattended.

    B. Mobility -Yes, this has wheels, but it’s hardly something you can pick up and move easily at a moment’s notice (a requirement for living on the street is constantly moving, else the police will cite you for loitering). Pushing it would tire anyone out after a short period of time, especially uphill or over uneven ground, not to mention the extreme gain in weight that would result when it got wet. It would also be VERY noisy. I know a shopping cart is likely noisier, but neither is as quiet as a bicycle and bike trailer (the preferred mode).

    C. Dangerous – Fire in an extremely enclosed space? Are you insane? Fire eats oxygen and produces deadly carbon monoxide, which would quickly fill that small space and kill the occupant before the water boils. It’s also made of wood, making any fire accident likely lethal. “Hey let’s crawl inside this wooden box and start a fire!”

    D. Unsanitary – That bucket of feces makes me want to hurl.

    E. It’s a box – I don’t live in a house, because I don’t want to be locked into a boxed life. Why the heck would I live in a smaller, deadlier box instead? Homelessness is about freedom, living outside of the box. It’s about not conforming to the social norms, especially norms regarding how one should live. This contraption flies in the face of what we stand for. You don’t understand us at all.

    Guess what else? I own a laptop, mobile phone and many electronics. I know at least 5 other homeless people who tote laptops with them too. We all have phones, even the grungy gutter punks under that bridge you drive over everyday. Gadgets make life easier for everyone, not just house mice.

    And to all you who think that homelessness is problem that needs solving, please go get a clue. We CHOOSE to be homeless. We LIKE being without an anchor. We LOVE not being obligated to participate in social insanity. We don;t need to be cured, you do. We’re all-natural free-range human. You’re the factory-farmed sub-par brand.

    You want to help the homeless? Try talking to us like human beings. We’re not a disease. We’re not a social problem. Society is the problem. Homelessness is one of many answers.

    Now, if you don’t mind, I’m going where I want to go, and I’m going to do what I want to do. Call me when you get done making Mr. Big rich.

    Homeless Joe says:
  • Well, I’m glad for this post and that people like Mr.Elkins try to find solutions for making one’s life better. No matter how good or how bad the design is, I think we can all learn from it and from the discussion above.Practice makes perfect so I’m hoping to see more projects that address this issue.

    Alina says:
  • Hmmm, I have an idea. How about moding old golf carts into mini RVs? Just take the homeless angle out, it is kind of silly, as pointed out.

    So in the tech startup world, think those hip places in Boulder CO, they have mobile cubicles. You show up in the morning, grab a mobile pod, and move to some corner of a big expansive floor in a low slung suburban/urban office building.

    I could see someone mashing up a mini-rv idea with the Organic Transit project just launched after a successful Kickstarter initiative.

    Think nomads, the homeless as lifestyle crowd.

    Lupus Yonderboy says:
  • @Psycho, please speak for yourself. I was homeless for over a year when my job vaporized and I don’t see how anyone could ever want to be in that situation. Although I think this box is not anywhere near a solution and yes homelessness is a social problem, so is drunks which spend all day bumming from people and then sleep in the woods after getting toasted.

    not homeless now says:
  • The ‘yurt’ in a hand cart would offer more effective shelter.The thought that this is what we are looking at as a solution to ‘homelessness’ in the 21st Century is heartbreaking.What about fewer illegal wars and excerpting some responsibility for all our race!

    Peter Keane says:
  • Good, cleaver design thinking, but bad premises. Let the efforts go into providing real homes, not band-aids.
    It can be done.

    Seth Joseph Weine says:
  • This this is an AWESOME idea. Who say’s homeless don’t have laptops? Raise your standards there a bit 😉

    tricia says:

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