People who are experiencing homelessness are particularly vulnerable right now. Sleeping outside during winter is unthinkable for many, never mind during a pandemic. In Germany, there are around 860,000 people living on the streets. That’s why a company called Ulmer Nest in the city of Ulm (75 miles (120 km) west of Munich) is doing what it can to help. It recently introduced a fleet to solar-powered sleep pods, providing a safe place for people to keep warm.
The futuristic-looking pods were introduced in Ulm on January 8, 2020 as part of a pilot project. If successful, the “nests” could be found across the whole of Germany. Each tiny cabin is made from wood and steel and can fit up to two people inside (or one person and a pet or luggage). They’re also waterproof, protect against the cold, wind, and humidity, and even have integrated solar panels to provide heating. They can be securely locked when inside, and a motion sensor sends an alert to social workers when the doors are open. This is so the nests can be professionally cleaned after each person leaves. The pods even have a radio network so that people can get in touch with the team overseeing the cabins if they need to.
The pods are not intended to serve as alternative housing, but as emergency accommodation for those who have nowhere else to go. So far, the citizens of Ulm have welcomed the pods as a new addition to their streets. “We’ve even seen some effects that we didn’t dream of, like neighbors providing the overnight guests with hot tea in the morning and such,” reveals Florian from the Ulmer Nest team. “Also, city officials were always very supportive and positive about the project, which helped us a lot. And then there’s a lot of those small moments when working on the Nests out in the city, and people come up to say thank you (homeless and not homeless alike). That also means a lot actually.”
You can check out the Ulmer Nest pods below and find out more about them on the company's website.