The German city of Ulm is piloting individual windproof and waterproof sleeping pods to provide shelter for homeless people during the freezing winter months. The pods, dubbed “Ulmer Nests,” will prove life-saving for people in need.
The Ulmer Nests were launched on Jan. 8 and were placed in parks and other places where homeless people usually sleep in the city of Ulm, 75 miles (120 km) away from Munich according to a city spokesman, reported The Independent.
“Today … the two Ulm nests were repositioned, unfortunately due to corona with delay,” the team posted on Facebook, “but just in time for the really cold nights … we hope to offer a little bit of protection and security to those who most depend on it in Ulm.”
Ulmer Nests, the team explained in a press release, are targeted toward people who are not sleeping in regular homeless shelters. “This can be due to psychological or physical factors,” they explained, adding that fear of crime and violence, or an aversion to rules and regulations, may also play a role.
The sleeping pods, constructed from wood and powder-coated sheet steel, are insulated and fitted with heat exchangers to protect users from inclement weather such as cold, wind, and humidity. Each pod sleeps up to two people and canine companions are allowed.
The design that debuted on Jan. 8 is an upgraded version of a pod that was trialed in 2018. The original version was dreamt up in response to problem-solving initiative Wilhelmsbüro’s “Storm the Castle” campaign, a lobby for the temporary use of the Wilhelmsburg fortress to house the homeless.
The upgraded Ulmer Nests were designed with input from members of the fire brigade, police, citizens’ services, medics, and cleaning companies, and will incur lower operating costs than the first version. It is also hoped that they will receive a better reception from service users and local residents.
Each pod has wireless connectivity; temperature, humidity, and CO2 controls; solar panels; internal locking; basic lighting; and heat exchange and ventilation run by rechargeable batteries. There are no cameras inside the pods, to protect users’ anonymity.
Users don’t need to register to sleep in a pod. Instead, each Ulmer Nest is equipped with a motion sensor that records the opening and closing of the access hatch.
The Caritas Ulm-Alb-Donau charity association, part of the wider Ulmer Nest family, is then notified that somebody has stayed overnight. The charity provides cleaning services the following day, and repairs if necessary so that the pod can be reused.
Partner organizations, including social workers, pay regular visits to the pods to invite users to connect with the city’s resources for homeless people.
“The Ulmer Nest is not intended to be an alternative to living space,” the team explained in a press release. “The goal should always be to support those affected to lead a [better] life in the longterm.”
It is hoped that the Ulmer Nest model catches on in other cities across Germany if it proves suitable to protect against frostbite, according to The Independent.