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Innovative sleeping arrangements are helping support people experiencing homelessness in Plymouth

Sleeping pods

Emergency sleep pods

Over the past 12 months BCHA has faced many challenges as a result of the Covid pandemic, but none more urgent than the Government’s initiative to bring all rough sleepers inside

In Plymouth, BCHA continues to contribute to ‘Everyone In’, working as part of The Plymouth Alliance - seven providers commissioned together by Plymouth City Councilto deliver a co-produced integrated system, created to support individuals with complex needs, including people who are rough sleeping. 

Providing people who have been rough sleeping with emergency accommodation is no simple matter. Pre COVID, dormitory style accommodation was available through local charity Hamoaze House, who run a day centre for drug and alcohol rehabilitation, but at night use part of their building as an emergency night shelter to accommodate between eight to ten people in one room, sleeping on mats on the floor.

Post COVID, however, this arrangement was no longer possible if social distancing guidance was to be observed.

This is when BCHA reached out for some expert advice and contacted local architects 4D Architects Studio, who were tasked with finding a practical solution to the social distancing versus lack of space problem.

4D Architects Studio rose to the challenge and developed an innovative but workable design for eight self-contained single bunks, which replaced the previous shared space provision.

Ben Warren, Director at 4D Architects Studio, said:

“Given how the pandemic has affected all aspects of life and the clear social benefits of this project it was something we felt warranted a thorough and innovative approach. From our perspective, it was important that each bed had access to natural light and ventilation. By challenging the initial brief, we were able to deliver eight interlocking pods/bed spaces within budget. We hope this accommodation will help the charity to offer respite to the many that need it.”

The new individual bunk bed rooms are all heated and have an extractor fan for ventilation. There’s a plug socket and space for a bed, but that’s it. However, what they lack in space, they more than make up for in providing privacy and safety, which is valued greatly by the users.

Between 10pm and 8am the bunk bed rooms are occupied by individuals who have been referred by the rough sleeper team (who comprise staff from the charity Path, also an Alliance member).

In the morning, the BCHA customers take a short walk to the charity Shekinah (another Alliance member), which provides opportunities for people in recovery or seeking recovery. There they can have breakfast, take a shower and have a conversation with support staff regarding housing options and their physical and mental health.

As well as the bunk bed rooms, Hamoaze House provides additional temporary accommodation in the form of emergency sleep pods, which are located in an outside courtyard. 

The 8ft x 6ft pods all have a bed, lights and a USB socket, with access controlled by a keypad. They were purchased by The Plymouth Alliance using Government funding.

BCHA senior practitioner Vicky Jennings, who works closely with all members of The Plymouth Alliance, said:

“The individuals who we have had coming through so far have all said how great it is to have their own space, rather than all being in one room together. They say they feel safe. The bunk beds have encouraged more people to come in off the streets, who may have otherwise continued to sleep rough, because of not wanting to share a room with other people.

“The bunk beds and the sleeping pods are a safety net and it’s amazing that COVID has resulted in this offer for rough sleepers, because we would never have been given these bunks or the pods had it not been for the pandemic.

“This accommodation really enables us to engage with people who have been sleeping rough. At night they are more vulnerable, but this gives you a chance to see their other side. It’s vital that we see people as individuals and give them the opportunity to open up. They are less guarded and trust us – it is so important that we don’t judge them. It’s vital that we give them time to open up and to let us get to know them, which in turns means we are in a better position to find the right solution.

“Since December we’ve had four people move into temporary accommodation, which means they are supported with their personal needs as well as given a home before being helped to find permanent accommodation. We’ve also helped two individuals into private rented accommodation.

A spokesperson from The Plymouth Alliance, said:

“The vision of The Plymouth Alliance is to improve the lives of people with complex needs, supporting the whole person to meet their aspirations and to participate in and contribute to all aspects of life.

“We aim to coordinate a system, which enables people to be supported flexibly, receiving the right help, at the right time, in the right place.

“Working closely with Plymouth City Council and together as a system, we’ve been able to meet the challenges presented by Covid and provide a rapid response, the teams are pulling together brilliantly. This project demonstrates the value of the collaboration possible across The Alliance.

“The team has worked really hard to get this accommodation up and running so quickly. Feedback from customers for the bunks has also been positive with many of them saying they “prefer the top bunk to the bottom!”

Councillor Chris Penberthy, Cabinet Member for Housing and Co-operative Development at Plymouth City Council, said:

“The rapid response to deliver this provision facing the challenges posed by COVID is a great example of the work of The Plymouth Alliance with organisations working together and alongside Plymouth City Council to deliver better options for people needing support. These safe spaces mean more choice and less people sleeping on the streets in Plymouth and supports our vision to end the need for anyone to sleep rough in Plymouth.”



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