The homeless find themselves out on the streets for various reasons, ranging from medical bankruptcy to drug addiction. One of the numerous hardships associated with that is never being able to get a good night’s sleep. It may be from the cold, fear of having one’s possessions stolen or being attacked, or it may be from lack of a comfortable bed.
Public shelters are an option, but they can often be dangerous and overcrowded. That’s why a Brisbane, Australia, charity called Beddown decided to try an entirely new model.
Instead of building more shelters, which are costly and can be controversial, the organization uses empty parking lots with mattresses instead of cars occupying parking stalls as overnight sleeping spaces for the city’s homeless. The results so far have been heartening, and the charity plans to expand the program to 600 parking garages across Australia and New Zealand.
The idea to turn empty parking garages into safe spaces to sleep came from Brisbane man Norman McGillivray, whose father had died homeless in London in the 1970s.
As Beddown’s website explains, “The lightbulb moment came when Norm went to a local shopping centre and noticed that when he parked there the car park was nearly empty.” If there was this extra supply of space, there was certainly demand from the homeless population of Brisbane.
“The beauty of car parks is they offer great spaces which are sheltered, secure, spacious, clean and can be activated very quickly into pop-up accommodation and be popped down very quickly too, with minimal disruption to the business,” the site adds.
Beds + guests it has finally started ❤️Night shift 🙂
The next step was to get the company that manages the garages, Secure Parking, on board with the project. They agreed to let Beddown run a two-week trial. Then it was up to local volunteers who would help roll out the beds, make them up, and check in the occupants as they arrived.
Besides a comfortable bed to sleep in, homeless guests could get access to a doctor, nurse, dentist, and hairdresser onsite, as well as clothing and other donations. But of course, proof of the program’s viability is in its ability to provide guests a good night’s sleep.
The organization found that over 41 visitors used the program during its two-week pilot period, and they were very happy with the service. They reported the results of a post-pilot survey on Instagram:
“Sleep rated on average – 4.5 out of 5
“Beds rated on average – 4.5 out of 5
“100% of guests said they felt safe during their stay.”
View this post on Instagram
The comments were glowing and inspiring in equal measure: “After spending the week here, having a good sleep at night and a routine, it reminded me of life and I booked myself into Rehab for 6 months,” one guest said, per the report on Instagram.
Another sleeper was grateful for “not having to watch [their] back.”
Perhaps the most poignant was a guest who told Beddown, “It’s the first time I have had a dream in years.”
“A female guest found employment due to being able to sleep safely at night and able to work during the day,” Beddown added, proving McGillivray and many other homeless advocates’ assertions that if homeless people are given a safe space to sleep, they can start to turn their lives around.