Eco-Friendly Solutions To The Homelessness Crisis

As the long-term impact of COVID-19 on the global economy is becoming more clear, many people around the world are at particular risk of homelessness. The spiraling inflation and growing unemployment are making life very difficult for people as prices of basic food items and utility bills are getting out of the reach of poor people. On the other hand, people are losing jobs or finding it hard to enter into labour market due to multiple social and economic reasons. With the result, there is a steady rise in homelessness which is going to increase in coming years.

As per a report published in June in the Guardian, a leading British newspaper, the number of people without a home in England is going to increase by a third by 2024 (1). There are complex factors fuelling homelessness in Western countries like the UK and the US like cuts to social security, rising food and energy prices as well as the end of COVID-related eviction bans. In the UK, it is expected that, “more than 66,000 more people will be homeless by 2024 (1).

Similarly, homelessness is also a significant problem in the poorer countries in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. According to a recent UNICEF analysis covering 11 countries in the Middle East and North Africa, poverty continues to impact at least 29 million children – one in four children in the region (2).

refugee camp in syria

Personally, I believe that due to the close relationship between capitalism and the housing crisis, finding an eco-friendly solution to homelessness is imperative especially as a result of Climate Change which is something that new housing must be designed to respond to. This idea links with how the solution to reducing homelessness involves, “federally mandated policies designed to increase the supply of available affordable housing units to those needing dependable shelter” as proposed by Athullya Gopi who works for the Institute for New Economic Thinking in New York (3).

The importance of environmentally friendly housing solutions in tackling the homelessness crisis cannot be overstated. According to Ms Gopi, a quick-fix housing solution will only increase carbon emissions and energy consumption and an eco-friendly solution is more desirable considering Climate Change (3).

The need for the state to intervene and ensure housing for the homeless links with my personal beliefs as well as my support for state subsidized housing for the homeless. This is important as state subsidized housing for the homeless could adopt eco-friendly design.

For instance, the EcoHood development in South Central Los Angeles has created micro homes with solar power and energy performance features which secure housing for those in need as cheaply and quickly as possible while keeping the environment in mind (4). Furthermore, “the goal of the pilot project is to provide a template for how to… reduce L.A.’s homeless population at a fraction of cost of traditional construction without harming the planet” (4).

green solutions to homelessness crisis

In the UK, net-zero carbon homes are a development which demonstrate a practical but eco-friendly solution to homelessness. Net-zero carbon homes designed for the homeless were put on display at the COP26 conference in Glasgow in a bid to offer green housing solutions (5). I appreciate how the viability of net-zero carbon homes are highlighted by net-zero carbon homes.

Net-zero carbon homes are, “erected on stilts above an existing public car park and are fitted with low-energy heating systems, rooftop solar panels and other green technologies to drive down carbon output” (5). Therefore, net-zero carbon homes provide a rationale for tackling homelessness and addressing the Climate Crisis through green construction. However, the predominantly urban nature of the homelessness crisis means that, “special emphasis needs to be made on urban as opposed to rural areas” and construction of accommodation for the homeless should keep in mind the overall carbon footprint of such a project (3). I think that net-zero carbon homes are specifically tailored to address homelessness in a sustainable manner.

Net-zero carbon homes do not produce a carbon footprint and they do not contribute to global warming through the emission of carbon dioxide during construction.  Moreover, net-zero carbon homes are easily adaptable and can be constructed in the MENA region with support and government funding.

Another eco-friendly solution to the homelessness crisis is the tiny house movement. Tiny homes are no more than 400 square feet in size (6). Tiny homes provide an eco-friendly solution to homelessness as they are an affordable and sustainable alternative to public housing. This is as, “one of the main environmental benefits of tiny homes is that they require fewer materials to build, and less energy to power, heat and cool compared to traditional single-family houses” (7).

green housing for homeless

The ability of the tiny house movement to not just address homelessness but Climate Change is convincing. Maria Saxton, a PhD Candidate at Virginia Tech, “spent a year studying the environmental impact of people who moved into tiny homes, and she found that most tiny home dwellers reduced their energy consumption by 45 percent upon downsizing” (8). So, it seems fair to assume that if homeless people are accommodated in tiny homes rather than public housing, it would mean that their overall ecological footprint would decrease through the adoption an ecological lifestyle with lower levels of energy consumption than in public housing (9).

On a personal level, I believe that the tiny house movement is also the perfect eco-friendly solution to the homelessness crisis as occupiers of tiny homes, “adopt more environmentally conscious eating habits, such as eating more locally and growing more of their own food” (9). I think that the tiny house movement effectively ensures that people who move into tiny homes will adopt an eco-friendly lifestyle. Therefore, in my opinion, tiny homes help solve both homelessness and the Climate Crisis and can be implemented all over the world, from the West to the Middle East.

To conclude, I strongly believe that both net-zero carbon homes and tiny homes provide a practical solution to the homeless crisis which is both affordable and sustainable in the long-term. As net-zero carbon homes and tiny homes employ flexible building materials and are easy to transport, they can be implemented throughout the world. Net-zero carbon homes and tiny homes are the global solution to the homelessness crisis as they are adaptable and flexible. In the long-term, net-zero carbon homes and tiny homes are connected to the global transition to eco-friendly construction and housing during the Climate Crisis.

Bibliography

  1. Booth R. Homelessness set to soar in England amid cost of living crisis [Internet]. the Guardian. 2022 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/feb/22/homelessness-set-to-soar-in-england-amid-cost-of-living-crisis
  2. At least one in four children live in poverty in the Middle East and North Africa [Internet]. Unicef.org. 2017 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.unicef.org/press-releases/least-one-four-children-live-poverty-middle-east-and-north-africa
  3. Gopi A. Tackling Urban Homelessness the Green Way [Internet]. Economicquestions.org. 2019 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://economicquestions.org/homelessness/
  4. EcoHood Sustainable Housing [Internet]. Cangress.org. 2020 [cited 6 July 2022]. Available from: https://cangress.org/services/ecohood/
  5. Geraghty L. These zero-carbon homes for homeless people offer a future for green housing – The Big Issue [Internet]. The Big Issue. 2021 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.bigissue.com/news/housing/cop26-these-zero-carbon-homes-for-homeless-people-offer-a-future-for-green-housing/
  6. Carrizosa P. Could tiny homes be the adorable, affordable and sustainable housing that our planet needs? [Internet]. ideas.ted.com. 2021 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://ideas.ted.com/impact-of-tiny-homes-on-the-environment-and-affordable-housing/
  7. Krosofsky A. Why Tiny Homes Are Eco-Friendly — And Why They Sometimes Aren’t [Internet]. Green Matters. 2020 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.greenmatters.com/p/why-are-tiny-homes-eco-friendly
  8. Stinson L. Just how eco-friendly are tiny homes? Very, according to new research [Internet]. Curbed. 2019 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://archive.curbed.com/2019/8/6/20755931/tiny-houses-environmental-impact-research
  9. Saxton M. Do tiny home owners actually live more sustainably? Now we know [Internet]. Fast Company. 2019 [cited 29 June 2022]. Available from: https://www.fastcompany.com/90385816/do-tiny-home-owners-actually-live-more-sustainably-now-we-know

About Nibras Malik

Nibras Malik is a second year Politics & IR student at Cardiff University. Her poetry has been published in Acumen and the Trouvaille Review. Her latest work is forthcoming with The Scarlet Leaf Review. Many of her poems incorporate environmental themes. Furthermore, she has been long-listed for the Felix Dennis Young Poets Competition 2020- an environmentally focused poetry contest. In her spare time, she enjoys nature and watching documentaries.
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