Whereas London and Montreal have installed spikes on the sidewalks to keep homeless people from getting too comfortable, Vancouver offers a kind welcome with benches that transform into mini-shelters. A nonprofit called RainCity Housing teamed up with Spring Advertising to create the modified public benches in order to provide a covered place to sleep while simultaneously raising awareness.
RainCity provides specialized housing and support services for the homeless in Vancouver. This two-part project highlights the importance of RainCity’s work without a hint of the exploitation that’s often seen in homeless awareness campaigns, avoiding stereotypical images of derelict people and focusing on a solution instead.
The first bench, which reads ‘FIND SHELTER HERE,’ has a built-in roof that can easily be folded up when needed. The second features the message ‘This is a bench’ during the day. At night, glow-in-the-dark ink highlights the text ‘This is a bedroom.’
The Vancouver campaign is one of many thoughtful projects that meet at the intersection of activism and urban design. An open-source street store that’s easy to set up in any city offers free clothes for the homeless, and 14 thought-provoking ideas seek new ways to manage the issue of homelessness whether by meeting the immediate needs of people who live on the streets or providing more long-term transitional living spaces.