The City as Home

By Chris

Several years ago I read an article about homeless people living in an airport, which initially seemed like an unusual choice of place to decide to stay.  But reading further into it you could see that it had a few significant benefits.  Firstly, the airport in the article had plenty of toilets and showers, but it also afforded the homeless people a certain level of equality that they might not otherwise achieve.

In the city, if you see someone emptying a suitcase of all their clothes and other important possessions, they are generally recognised as being homeless.  However, put that same person in an airport doing exactly the same thing and they will probably just blend in with the travellers who are checking to see if they’ve packed their toothbrush.  The same with sleeping on the floor or bench with a bag as a pillow, in an airport you may expect them to be getting some sleep in between flights, but it’s a different story in the Roma Street Parklands.

This got me thinking about the homeless people in Brisbane and wanting to discover if there was a way to improve their standard of living, and possibly helping to reduce their ‘visibility’ as homeless people.  This was a train of thought that I followed in my Master’s thesis (download PDF here), which lead me down a path of finding other examples that allow homeless people to live in the city rather than trying to accommodate them in shelters.  The interesting thing I encountered while doing this research was how the success of trying to achieve something like this would actually benefit everyone who visits and uses the city each week.

For example, one thing that would allow homeless people to experience a better quality of life is an ability to cook for themselves as they are generally highly independent people.  To achieve this, facilities such as public bbq’s, with running water and sinks to wash your plate afterwards would go a long way to improving their situation.  If better facilities like these were provided across the city, (and not just in high value places such as Southbank) it would create places that everyone in the city could enjoy.

For me, it was definite food for thought.  I discovered that possibly the simplest solutions would provide the most positive of outcomes, I would be very interested to hear what other peoples thoughts might be!