Homelessness is a persistent issue even in industrialized nations. One would think that citizens in countries like America and Germany wouldn't have large numbers of folks who were unable to find shelter, however, this isn't the case. There are an estimated 553,742 without a place to sleep indoors on average in the United States on "any given night".
Germany, despite having a population size that's roughly a quarter of the United States', has a reported staggering 860,000 homeless inhabitants. This increase was mainly attributed to the nation's generous policy about refugees, which accounts for a 150% increase since 2014.
In the city of Ulm, a group of individuals started a "problem-solving" collective of sorts where they would brainstorm ideas and take suggestions/pitch ideas from local people or groups, and then they would get to work on coming up with a solution to said problem.
They basically sound like a group of do-gooders from a TV show, and it's incredibly wholesome, especially the "nest" solution that they came up with.
In an interview with Bored Panda, Florian, a representative from the team behind the Ulmer Nest stated, "...we chose some experts whose task was to decide which of the submitted problems we actually would have to work on, for 48 hours each. And then, the city of Ulm basically submitted their ‘problem’," Florian told the outlet.
And the problem? How to ensure that homeless individuals had a place to stay at night so they wouldn't die of hypothermia, "'We’ve got homeless people who can’t go to shelters, and we don’t want them to freeze to death—can you do something about this?’ And our experts selected this as a task for us to work on."
The team's turnaround time was remarkable. They began coming up with ideas on a Thursday at 8 AM, and by Friday evening the team of "designers and technologists" were able to come up with a prototype, even a VR experience where one could feel what it would be like to spend time inside the nest.
Prior to putting nests on the street, the idea was further developed by the team, but the nests are now in their second year of use and have been outfitted with some impressive technology to ensure that temperatures inside the boxes are regulated and offer the city's homeless a refuge from the bitter elements.
The nests are outfitted with solar panels, and upgrades for the winter of 2020-2021 have seen a slew of improvements, "For this winter, we modified details of our door in an effort to improve usability both for the people sleeping in the Nests and the Social Workers checking in on them. Also, we spent a good deal of time improving insulation and climate management, to be able to keep humidity and temperature at the best possible levels while operating on a limited budget of energy," Florian said.
The nests are only to be used as emergency housing situations, like when a shelter is full or some other form of permanent housing situation hasn't been secured. Florian has also said that for the most part him and his team have received support of the work and there are instances of neighbors, who, upon seeing someone use the nest will offer up a cup of hot tea in the morning.
There aren't any plans currently to mass-produce the nest, however, Florian says that option is definitely on the table if there's a high enough demand for them. As such, they're strictly used as emergency housing situations and once the winter is over, they are removed from their locations, maintained, re-tooled, and then saved for the following winter.