The Belfast ‘Homeless Pod’

In advance of a feature on the BBC’s Spotlight programme tonight, Tony O’Tierney, a PhD student in the University of Leicester School of Management, discusses the ‘homeless pod’ that recently appeared in Belfast.

An act of kindness in Belfast has attracted much press coverage over the last 3 months, the HI Pod, or ‘homeless pod’ was an initiative by the Common Law NI group, who were approached by its creators due to their extensive work with homeowners facing repossession by banks. Shortly before Christmas 2014, they placed a custom-made homeless shelter near Victoria Street, one of the main streets in the city, not far from major landmarks. While doubling as a bench, the custom-made enclosed shelter provided a 6′ x 3′ compartment for sleeping, with soft foam matting on the floor, complete with a light, radio and mobile phone charging port powered by a solar panel on the exterior of the pod.

With increasing attention being drawn to the pod, Belfast City Council chose to confiscate the unit ostensibly over ‘health and safety’ concerns, suggestions which met with a great deal of criticism, including from one of its users who stated that the pod had given him ‘The best sleep I’ve had in five years’.

Many called for its return, including University of Leicester students.

University of Leicester students calling for the pod's return.

University of Leicester students calling for the pod’s return.

 

The council relented and returned the unit to the group. Following a makeover, it was replaced in its original position, and it has since drawn wide support, including from a US-based rapper.

With the beginning of Spring, on the 1st of the March the group chose to collect the pod to implement changes and to plan future projects.

The homeless pod after a makeover.

The homeless pod after a makeover.

Meanwhile, it has helped to stimulate debate about how society deals with homelessness and what practical measures can be taken. The Pod will be the discussed on BBC’s current affairs programme, Spotlight, (17/03/15) at 22:45; available online and on BBC One Northern Ireland. For more information, check out www.hipod.org.

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