“Somewhere to call home is a fundamental human need.
An obvious solution to homelessness is more homes. But until those homes are built, more and more people are in urgent need of a place of shelter.
In the UK and Eire in 2022, increasing numbers of people are homeless or perilously close to it. In England in 2022, Shelter reported an 11% increase between January and March, with 74,230 people becoming homeless or being at imminent risk – including 25,610 families with children.
Since the abolition of workhouses in Britain in 1948 and Ireland in 1925, interim solutions for homelessness have varied widely from large-scale dormitories accommodating 1,000 people or more to bed and breakfast accommodation or expensive short-term rentals from buy-to-let landlords. Today, while some schemes such as Holmes Road by Peter Barber Architects for the London Borough of Camden provide a place of dignified refuge for people with extra care needs, elsewhere hostel provision can be less than hospitable.
Other contemporary ‘solutions’ may uproot people from existing networks of support including school, family and community. On top of this, homelessness accommodation often comes with stigma attached, and may fail to provide safety or privacy while being isolated from opportunities for work, meaningful occupation or social engagement.
As discussed by philosophers over the centuries, dwelling is fundamental to human existence – and few interim solutions meet the essence of ‘home’ encapsulated by American poet Robert Frost in the line ‘Something you somehow haven’t to deserve’.
How can people struggling with housing security ever feel truly at home?
The 2023 Davidson Prize asks you to imagine for a moment an amnesty on land ownership and a ban on empty buildings. Choose a brownfield or greenfield site or an unused building in any location in the UK or Eire and design a home community where people who have experienced the trauma of homelessness and housing insecurity are given time to settle, recover and find their bearings.”
You can read more about The Davidson Prose and the 2023 competition brief at The Davidson Prize website.