SEATTLE, Washington — In December 2019, there were approximately 280,000 people facing homelessness in the United Kingdom. This is an increase of 23,000 since 2016 in people who are without shelter or a home. In major metropolitan areas like London, 1 in 52 people are experiencing homelessness. In areas such as Chelsea, 1 in 29 people are homeless. The data also suggests that there could be nearly 220,000 additional people who were in danger of becoming homeless during 2019. In addition to these statistics, experts believe that the amount of homeless people in the United Kingdom is much higher than the official data says. This is due to undocumented homelessness, such as couch surfing and occasional rough sleeping. The non-governmental organization Buses 4 Homeless is using double decker buses to tackle homelessness.
The organization Buses4Homeless are taking London’s iconic double decker buses and turning them into a holistic solution for homelessness in London. Recently, areas of the city were marked as “Ultra-Low Emission Zones.” As many of the buses do not meet the low emission requirements, they are taken off of the streets. Buses 4 Homeless mainly sources their buses through donation or purchase of these decommissioned busses.
Once Buses 4 Homeless has buses, the organization turns them into spaces for living, eating, learning and wellness. In the span of three months, the program aims to help guests understand the root causes of their homelessness and prepare them for a more prosperous future. The program has a strong emphasis on teaching participants skills that can aid in getting jobs and becoming reintegrated with their communities.
Buses 4 Homeless consists of four different buses that serve various purposes related to their mission. The Buses 4 Shelter is a bus with 16 beds that give the homeless a safe place to sleep. Buses 4 Dining is a space in which participants prepare and enjoy meals together. The organization describes the dining bus as a place where visitors can form friendships and a place where they may share their aspirations with one another.
The Buses 4 Learning have computers and printers in order to assist participants learn vocational skills. In these buses, the visitors are supported by staff and one another while learning important skills. The skills people learn on these double decker buses are ones that could lead to potential employment. The organization hopes that visitors will become more confident in their skills and come away from the program with higher self-esteem as a result.
In the Buses 4 Wellness, participants are able to participate in activities that are related to their overall wellbeing. Some of the services offered include yoga, relaxation and fitness. There are also mental wellbeing services offered to visitors who need it. Counselors and therapists are available to help those using the services identify factors that have contributed to their homelessness and what steps they can take to overcome it.
Once participants complete the three month intensive program, Buses 4 Homeless hope they will not only go on to get jobs and start their own businesses, but also become mentors to future program participants. On May 26, the company announced that 6 of their former residents were employed full time.
Although the company is currently only operating in London, they have plans to expand both nationally and internationally. With an innovative approach to solving the homelessness crisis in the United Kingdom and across the globe, Buses 4 Homeless is well on its way to improving the housing crisis one double decker bus at a time.
– Maddi Miller
Photo: Wikimedia Commons