Shelter for the Homeless

Henok Molla & Biruk W/Selassie
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The human race being a social animal, one of its distinctive characters making it unique from fellow creatures is the need for “shelter” as a basic necessity for its livelihood. Through evolution, the concept of shelter has been gradually stepping up from a purely functional need to a sophisticated science of buildings, architecture.

As it happens, more people in the world are living in cities and the continent of Africa is also undergoing a rapid urbanization process. But the growing scale of the human population makes this basic necessity scares in dense urban areas like Addis Ababa, which is why subsidized housing programs are becoming a big task for most governments worldwide.

Ethiopia as a country passing through several social as well as political reforms, the “housing” project has been a common denominator leaving all policies and governances with the same result. Starting from the reign of Emperor Haileselassie I to the current federalist government, all have tried to narrow down the ever-widening gap between the housing demand and supply. Because of so many unresearched reasons including the construction technique and lack of innovative approach the gap could not be filled, even those projects targeting the ‘low income’ group are not affordable for the very group they were designed for.

Keeping that in mind, this project takes the initiative to tackle the crisis of housing by strategically considering a scale where the previous attempts had never considered and by assuming a virtually neglected target group of homeless citizens.
The above assumptions dictate to a more feasible and strategic selection of unoccupied leftover spaces as a form of pockets in between fences, property setbacks, vacant roadside strips to avoid the high lease prices in metropolitan areas.

The other point making this project more feasible is the construction technique employed i.e. the circular concrete tube conventionally used for drainage, re-purposed, and appropriated to a reasonable scale. Because of this technique, the enclosure as well as the structure of our capsule unit is integrated minimizing the workmanship and construction cost. An added advantage of using concrete tube is its bearing capacity allowing us to pile up units up to 6 stories making it more efficient and handle greater density especially in populated areas where available vacant land is scarce.

By mobilizing the existing religious institutes and social infrastructures, the project tries to create a synergy between beneficiaries and the community to fulfill the need for food and other consumer goods like clothing and utensils assuring its sustainability while creating a sense of ownership and self-initiated management.

Depending on the actual functional fabric of the neighborhood, the capsules are adaptable to any form of interactive use as a means of giving back to the community; for instance, the pilot project was situated between a church and primary school allowing it to be logically customized to a mini library targeting the students. A public toilet is also another site-specific feature of the project playing a big roll in maintaining surrounding hygiene.

This initiative has a rehabilitative potential for the homeless, empowering them to acquire proper identification and work permit to pursue financial freedom as it has already been able to qualify 30 candidates out of 45 to take part in Wereda level urban farming programs organized by the government.

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© November, 2020 Ketema Journal

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