Shelter vs Tent? – Why not just give the homeless a tent?

Tents are generally quite big, require suitable ground to pitch them on (parks/grass etc so you can get the tent pegs in), and are generally not designs for use on the street. Bristol council and the UK in general ‘frown’ upon the homeless choosing to live in tents – it makes ‘their’ city ‘unsightly’ and the authorities claim it makes it harder for outreach programs to reach people sleeping in tents (I’ve got no idea why this is the case?!).

I agree that ‘living’ in tents is not a solution to the growing homeless problem and I also agree that it should be avoided.

The main difference between staying in a tent and a shelter is that people can LIVE in a tent; you can not LIVE in an emergency shelter, its sole design it to allow people to SLEEP in adequate warmth and protection against wind and rain whilst they try to find other suitable means of accommodation. Living in a tent and especially a tented community, can bring about mess and anti-social behaviour and encourage focussed drug use and anti-social behaviour to some degree, LIVING in a tent provides a temporary fixed abode that people can call ‘home’; SLEEPING in an emergency crisis shelter provides nightly temporarily relief from the wind, rain and cold. You cannot ‘live’ in a shelter, it’s simply too small and unpractical, in essence its the same as ‘living’ out of a slightly enlarged sleeping bag or standard bivvy bag.

Our bivouac based design hugs the body, you cannot sit up in the shelter, let alone do anything that would remotely allow someone to ‘live’ in it. A shelter is designed for one purpose and one purpose only, and that is to provide SHELTER against the elements, to stop people from dying from the cold and wet weather. A shelter does NOT provide an adequate place to live on the streets. Effectively a shelter is a waterproof, windproof and weatherproof extension of a sleeping bag, it’s only slightly bigger than that of a sleeping bag, it fills the gap between a tent and a sleeping bag.

Clothes on back > Sleeping Bag/Blankets > Emergency Bivvy Bag > Crisis Shelter > Tent > Fixed accommodation

If the council have a problem with people sleeping in an emergency crisis shelter, then fundamentally they have a problem with people sleeping without adequate shelter from the elements. It’s one and the same thing, the only difference is that you are against people sleeping somewhere where they are warm and dry then you are actively supporting the fact that homeless people should live in the cold, wet horrible environment that is rough sleeping.

Outreach teams can still make contact with rough sleepers, all that’s changed is the fact that they are not shivvering to death in a shop doorway. If anything they have a better means of sleeping and thus do not rely as heavily on the NHS for rough sleeping related illnesses and injuries.

Simply put, an emergency crisis shelter will allow homeless people (which otherwise don’t have anywhere to sleep warm for the night) to sleep in a warm and sheltered environment, away from the elements.