Buses4Homeless provides a vital, inventive service to homeless Londoners.
The modern world is full of challenges; homelessness, an environment under threat, and excess waste are just three. However, one London company has taken it upon themselves to try and solve that particular trio all at once, by transforming old London buses into homeless shelters. Buses4Homeless may be a relatively new initiative, but one which has taken off quickly – truly, it’s an idea with a lot of mileage.
The thought is simple: London has a lot of double-decker buses which don’t meet the new clean air requirements of the Ultra-Low Emissions Zone (ULEZ), and thus can’t operate on certain routes anymore. As they’d be likely to rust on the scrapheap instead, buying them off cash-strapped boroughs and converting them to accommodation for homeless gives them a second life, whilst helping to reduce the number of people forced to sleep on the streets.
Buses4Homeless was only founded late last year, but it’s quickly attracted the attention of luminaries such as Hilton Hotels and Chelsea Football Club. Dan Atkins is the brains behind the project; the London businessman was accustomed to running party bus tours, but launched the social venture after seeing a homeless man sleeping in a luggage storage department.
Atkins bought and refurbished a double decker bus, offered it to the man as shelter, and eventually helped him get a job and rent a place of his own. With four further buses donated by Stagecoach, Buses4Homeless has the beginnings of a fleet that will hopefully provide 14,600 nights of sleep to the thousands of people sleeping rough in the capital.
Each refurbished sleeping bus boasts twenty sleeping pods, complete with storage space and privacy screens. Residents are invited for a minimum three-month stay, to give them the certainty of a warm bed for the night, and even the refurbishment progress was designed and led by homeless people, who earned enough money to afford permanent shelter as a result.
Buses4Homeless go beyond just providing shelter, however – they’re also creating a 32-seater bus restaurant to feed their residents, and a “learning bus” kitted out with computers. The charity will offer holistic support (including mental health services), and help residents gain vocational qualifications and put their skills to work. Their aim is to park the set of four buses up in a square, creating a community project and acting as the go-between betwixt night shelters and permanent housing.
The first wave of residents arrives this summer, with Thornton Heath being their temporary site until a permanent home can be found. Like all charities, Buses4Homeless relies on donations and volunteers – they’ve raised over £30,000 this year, and you can pledge your time and money here. Alternatively, if you have an old London bus you’d like taken off your hands, you know where to go!
Also published on Medium.