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A pod to call your own

May 20 2009
Lay your head down in your very own private spaceship Privacy is one of the first things to be neglected when people are looking for somewhere to bed down for the night, but designer Malcolm Crayton thinks he has found the answer. A controversial new design went on show last month, a sleep pod that looked so much like a spaceship the idea of sleeping was far from my mind. The small pods have a battery-supported lighting system, which means there is no need for extra power. Although it was disappointing to find out that there were no secret compartments within, there was enough room to put a rucksack and a pair of shoes in the storage spaces above and behind the bed. These sleep pods are not made for hard wear on the streets. Mike Neal, from Form Design Architecture said: "They are designed to be placed in any enclosed space; for St Patrick's church [Brighton], which ordered the sleep-pod a few months ago (see our July issue), or buildings that are offered to charities for short-term use." They have a lock for private space but they cannot guarantee security. Mike Neal was firm on this point: "They could be made to work this way in the future. For now they provide private space, but they must be placed in a secure and controllable environment." Lorica Trust, a Sussex-based organisation based in St Patrick's that aims to promote and provide housing and shelter, are hoping the design takes off. They are attempting to raise the funds necessary to buy 20 of the pods. Jack Wheale, representative and leading figure of the Trust explained why: "We want to provide a facility that seems to be in tune with the way people think right now. "There seems to be less willingness to sleep communally. This generation needs more private space." Another problem that the sleep pods aim to solve is the accommodation of women, said Mr Wheale. "Twenty-two to 25 per cent of the people who come to us are women, and we cannot accommodate them in our dormitories for security reasons. We have been trying to find alternative accommodation, to assure they would be secure and independent. Sleep-pods would certainly help us do that", he added. The pods are not yet able to accommodate couples or families, but alterations to the design could be made in future, Mr Neal said. Lorica is looking for sponsors to fund the sleep pods, but according to the charity the demand is for more than just the 20 they are looking for. "The Brighton council claims they are ten or fewer rough sleepers in the city. Our shelter accommodates 22 people, and it is full every night. When it's cold and dark we also let people sleep in the church and we operate a night cafe for 30 people, which means, we accommodate almost 55 people," said Mr Wheale. It seems the luxury of a sleep pod will be offered, at least in the beginning, only to a select few. Even if the sleep pod operation is successful, a person can only occupy the pod for three weeks. Mr Wheale explained: "We want to get any issues sorted with our help, and assist people in finding solutions, such a permanent accommodation or a job. If we see they are willing to do that, and they need to stay longer, we would allow it. "If we can't help someone, we might be able to help someone else. They could be 'blocking' the bed for someone else," he added. Doubts remain about such solutions though, especially when it is estimated each sleep pod would cost £3,000. This means Lorica needs £60,000 to accommodate its regulars. Mr Wheale was confident this price was worth it. "The sleep pods have a five-year life-span, while a room in a hostel would cost thousands of pounds per year. After a few months you realise you could have bought a sleep pod." He went on to say: "I would really like to see more sponsors, so that the price of the product would decrease." "So did you have any offers tonight?" The Pavement asked at the show where the pods where unveiled. "Well I don't have a check in my hands, but the reaction was very positive. I had indications that we will soon have a few", he said. One of Lorica's aims is to "end homelessness," and we asked Mr Wheale if he thought the pods would do it. "It's very difficult to say so, but they will certainly help," he said. "From our two-year experience we know there is a tendency for people to get locked into the homeless system. They have lots of knowledge and skill, but they don't know how to use them. "With the sleep pods and our support we can create a community that will prepare people to enter the society again. That's the plan." So, are we in urgent need of the expensive sleep pods, or is it another barrier to put up against each other? We'll wait and see.
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