The project transforming shipping containers into emergency homes for homeless people

Could shipping containers help to combat homelessness? Social enterprise Help Bristol’s Homeless thinks so

Old shipping containers are being repurposed and converted into temporary housing for homeless people in Bristol.

The scheme was dreamt up by those at Bristol-based social enterprise Help Bristol’s Homeless (HBH), who estimate that 150 people sleep rough in the city every night.

The single occupancy units are designed to be used as safe, short-term emergency accommodation until permanent homes can be found. Each self-contained flat will be equipped with a bathroom – including a hot shower – a basic kitchen, and a futon bed.

Inside a converted container. Image: Help Bristol’s Homeless

HBH founder Jasper Thompson came up with the idea when the organisation was lent a container at the end of March.

“We cleaned it out and put some beds in it. Then I looked at it and thought ‘this is a good idea. Maybe we should just get some shipping containers and fit them out with beds and stuff.’ I’d never seen it done before,” said Thompson.

Not only are we offering a temporary housing solution; we are helping to build self-confidence

Several members of the homeless community were involved in the conversion work and Thompson rallied additional support from friends and neighbours, as well as persuading local tradesman to help with the more technical aspects of the refit for free. Just over a month later, it was complete. Carl’s Haven – named after its donor – has since provided a temporary home for eight homeless people.

“This project is so important,” said Thompson. “Not only are we offering service users a temporary housing solution; we are also helping them to build their self-confidence by involving them in our project.

“We believe that having a home is not an entitlement, it is a right. Everybody should have the opportunity to live in a place they can call their own.”

A stripped out container, ready to be refurbished. Image: Help Bristol’s Homeless

The organisation aims to transform a further 10 containers, four of which have already been donated: two by the Royal British Legion and two by a construction business in Maidstone.

Each completed container will cost £5,000, HBH estimates, and it is encouraging people to donate funds to its Together We Can Make a Difference campaign to pay for the materials. So far £3,500 has been raised of the £30,000 target. HBH is also working with Bristol city council to secure a permanent piece of land for the project.

I’d love for everyone to see it and say ‘we could have that in our city’

“I’d love to see this come to life and pushed across the city,” said Thompson. “And for everyone to see it and say ‘we could have that in our city.’ That would be great.”

HBH prioritises housing, but also helps homeless people with filling in forms, and provides care packages that include food, sleeping bags and clothing.

A completed container conversion. Image: Help Bristol’s Homeless


Featured image: Help Bristol’s Homeless. Founder of Help Bristol’s Homeless, Jasper Thompson (l), meets a member of Bristol city council (r) outside a converted shipping conatiner.


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