Quick, Easy and Free Emergency Shelters
October 8, 2006 5:47 AM   Subscribe

I need ideas on emergency shelters, for the homeless in urban environments, as well as for out in the boondocks. Must be inexpensive or free and easy to set up. Please blow my mind.
posted by dropkick to Grab Bag (13 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
So... more information, please? i.e. materials at hand, or materials purchased by a community group to hand out? What kind of labor necessary to build them (i.e. community group, or manufactured?) Personal shelters, or tent-like things to contain a person or two plus posessions? What kind of climate? For handout after a natural disaster, or just for survival through something like a winter storm?
posted by SpecialK at 6:58 AM on October 8, 2006

(This, btw, is a perfect example of a very poorly developed question. We've got NO idea what you're looking for.)
posted by SpecialK at 6:59 AM on October 8, 2006

The "just add water" Concrete Canvas looked very clever to me. Here's a pic.
posted by snarfois at 7:01 AM on October 8, 2006

When I camp I do nothing more than string a plastic tarp on a slant. A low angle with an opening close to the ground keeps warmth in and prevents rain from blowing in. No tent to pack or repair, and the tarp has many other uses. I usually hike and camp in wooded areas, this wouldn't work in all environments.

Don't homless people need a bit more than emergency shelters? If you're going to encourage them to stay on the street you should aim at providing a durable reusable structure that's lightweight and compact so that it can be carried and moved easily. That's not going to be cheap. When I think of emergency shelters I think 'whatever I can get a hold of to keep me alive'. In an urban area that would be awnings, cardboard, newspapers etc. in a rural area that would be holes, culverts, and branches, exactly what the homeless use now because they know what works. In both cases a person needs knowledge and skill to assemble a usable strucutre, not just the material. Maybe that's what you should focus on.
posted by Science! at 7:01 AM on October 8, 2006

Indeed, terrible question.

A minimalist shelter for adverse weather is one blanket and one sheet of plastic. Place the plastic down on the ground. Place the blanket on top of it. Lie down. Grab both pieces, and roll yourself up into a burrito. This will keep you reasonably dry and nearly warm in a wide variety of weather conditions.
posted by jellicle at 7:29 AM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: Design Like You Give a Damn
posted by Etaoin Shrdlu at 9:15 AM on October 8, 2006

Did you try Google?
posted by DenOfSizer at 9:31 AM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: Check out Dwelling Portably (a real honest to goodness xeroxed zine), it's cheap and weird and very fascinating.... including lots of info on improvised shelters...

"Practical advice about being homeless or low-budget in-motion by choice -- camping on the edges, living simply, getting by on the road and loving it. This old-fashioned zine crams tons of tips onto a few sheets of paper printed in minuscule 6-point type. Holly and Bert Davis have been publishing this resource for several decades (formerly called Message Post) so they have a no-nonsense perspective. It's for modern nomads in the US choosing alternative lifestyles to working 9-5 in the same place. You get hard-won need-to-know wisdom like: How to live in cars. How to buy staples for 25 cents per pound. How do you protect your glasses in a tent or move big loads on your bicycle? Can you camp in U-Hauls? Where can you find a cheap dentist? The dangers of social services taking kids without a house. Fixing a free bike for long-haul travel. etc."
posted by Divine_Wino at 9:35 AM on October 8, 2006 [1 favorite]

Best answer: I don't think they get any better than Nader Khalili's superadobe shelter. Built from simple and common materials (dirt, sandbags and barbed wire), the end result is a structure that will resist rain, wind, fire and even earthquakes. Dirt is available virtually everywhere, so the only materials needed from the outside world are sandbags and barbed wire.
posted by buggzzee23 at 9:43 AM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: Wow! Mission accomplished - my mind was blown! Telling by the best answers I received, my question was phrased perfectly well. No need to expound.
posted by dropkick at 10:37 AM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: I've seen schoolbuses (no longer in use) put into the ground and reinforced with concrete for underground shelters. Seemed like a cheap solution to me.
posted by squidfartz at 10:50 AM on October 8, 2006

Best answer: There have been many contests to design emergency shelter for disaster victims or homeless people. Some of these might be slightly out of your $0 budget. ;) But check these out: 1, 2, 3, 4 (finalists etc. on left menu). Also, (though many of these designs are for bigger permanent structures), the prefab archives at Treehugger might have something that interests you. Etc.

But there have been some incredible homeless encampments, like the one that used to be on the Albany Bulb (also known as tent cities^). Seems like it's not the "dry and warm" part that is hard to figure out, it's the "not getting evicted."
posted by salvia at 10:52 AM on October 8, 2006

Response by poster: Science: I was thinking more in terms of temporary shelters in times of emergency and natural disaster, but I didn't want to tighten my definition too much and limit the scope of possibilities or invalidate other peoples perceptions of what an emergency shelter might be. You brought up a fantastic point however, but not one I haven't already thought of at length.
posted by dropkick at 11:07 AM on October 8, 2006

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