Posted on: December 8, 2019 at 5:28 pm
Last updated: December 9, 2019 at 10:55 am

No one ever chooses to be homeless. Whether it is because of mounting debt, illness, or inability to find work, there are millions of people every night across the country who have no place but the streets to lay their heads.

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There are over half a million homeless people in the United States [1]. Approximately 65 percent of these people stay in shelters each night, which leaves nearly 200 000 people to sleep on sidewalks, in parks, on benches or in abandoned buildings [1].

A new non-profit organization in Brisbane, Australia, has found a creative way to help solve that problem.

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A Unique Shelter

After he started looking into the homeless issue in Australia, Norman McGillivray realized that instead of improving, the situation was only getting worse. He wanted to find a way to have a meaningful impact, but he did not want to simply replicate the other services that were already available [2]. 

During a trip to a local shopping center, McGillivray made an observation about the carpark – it was nearly empty [2].

Thus, the idea for Beddown was born.

He reached out to Secure Parking, one of the largest carpark operators in the area, and got them on board. Now his idea had lift-off [2].

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A New Use of Space

There are many spaces throughout cities that are used during the day but are left empty at night. The goal of Beddown is to take these spaces and turn them into pop-up shelters for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the street [2].

Beddown provides more than just a bed and pillow. During their first trial, they had doctors, nurses, dentists, and hairdressers providing services to the guests, as well as offering them new clothing and a place to clean themselves [1].

Who is at the Greatest Risk for Homelessness?

There are many reasons why someone might become homeless, and there are some populations who are more vulnerable.

Veterans: Army veterans account for more than ten percent of all homeless people in the United States. Lack of adequate services to help veterans transition from active duty to regular civilian life could be a reason for this [3].

Victims of Domestic Violence: approximately fifteen percent of all homeless people in the United States are identified as survivors of domestic abuse. This is the leading cause of homelessness for women [3].

Children Discharged from the Foster Care System: This group includes children who have aged out of the foster care system, and those who left their placement because of a negative experience. Research shows that children who have gone through the welfare system are significantly more likely to experience homelessness [4].

Former Inmates and Rehab Patients: Many people in this group have not completed high school or have a GED so finding a job can be difficult. There is also a stigma surrounding former criminals and those with addictions, which prevents them from finding employment. This leaves them on the streets, where they are more likely to fall back into their old habits [5].
Traumatic Events: A house fire, loss of a job, or a family dispute could lead someone to homelessness. Injuries that leave someone with physical disabilities may also make it difficult for someone to find a job, and therefore end up on the streets [6].

What Challenges Do Homeless People Face?

Living in the streets, of course, is not easy. Homeless people face many environmental, economic, and social challenges that the rest of the population don’t have to deal with.

Without a home, there is no way to protect yourself from the freezing temperatures in the winter or the heat of the summer. Just simply surviving is a massive struggle, let alone trying to change your situation [7].

There is also a social stigma that comes with being homeless. They are often regarded as lazy or irresponsible, and can sometimes be denied services because of their appearance [7].

Sleep deprivation is another problem associated with homelessness [8]. People who live on the streets are always at risk for having what few possessions they do have stolen, and so don’t often get a full night’s rest.  

All of these struggles can lead to depression, diabetes, hypertension, and memory loss, which plunges these people further into the endless cycle of poverty and homelessness. Sleeplessness amongst those who are experiencing homelessness has even been linked to psychosis.

Beddown is Making a Difference

Just by simply providing a safe and clean place for people to rest for the night, Beddown is already having a profound impact on the homeless population in Brisbane. Here is what some of the participants in the trial had to say:

“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.”

“Being able to sleep all night and away from drugs, I’m clearer in the day and have not used drugs for 8 days.”

“It’s the first time I have had a dream in years.” 

“I don’t have to watch my back here.”

Beddown operates on three main principles: Everyone deserves a bed to sleep in, we need to repair the quality of life before building a life of quality, and we need to expedite the end of Beddown [2].

McGillivray does not want Beddown to exist forever. He wants to eradicate homelessness in his country, and offering a safe place to sleep is a stepping stone toward that goal.

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Brittany Hambleton
Team Writer
Brittany is a freelance writer and editor with a Bachelor of Science in Foods and Nutrition and a writer’s certificate from the University of Western Ontario. She enjoyed a stint as a personal trainer and is an avid runner. Brittany loves to combine running and traveling, and has run numerous races across North America and Europe. She also loves chocolate more than anything else… the darker, the better!

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