Municipality Guide: Humane Housing Solutions and Navigation Centers for the Homeless

Housing solutions for the homeless, sometimes referred to as "navigation centers," are important for every municipality across the country. And this is by no means an exaggeration. Unfortunately, every single region in the U.S. has community members experiencing homelessness.

As of 2019, the number of people in the U.S. without permanent housing was 567,000. 567,000 people across the country do not have access to a permanent and reliable…

  • Shelter
  • Bed
  • Toilet
  • Shower
  • Laundry facility 
  • Kitchen
  • Storage space for personal belongings

Imagine just how difficult it would be to contribute to the community if you did not have these crucial amenities. 

Thankfully, municipalities can help citizens overcome homelessness. In fact, local governments play a huge role in providing temporary housing solutions and navigation centers for the homeless until they can find permanent housing. 

These homeless citizens can have the basic security they need to be thriving members of your community.

Challenges Cities Face in Housing the Homeless

Currently, there is no standard “how-to” guide for how municipalities should offer navigation centers and housing solutions for the homeless. Instead, state and local governments work to find solutions for their specific community’s needs. 

Some cities are at a loss for finding appropriate housing solutions for their homeless citizens. This may be because there aren’t any existing vacant structures in the city available to shelter people. 

On the other hand, some cities that do have existing structures are still struggling to provide homeless shelters and navigation centers as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since social distancing measures need to be taken, close-knit living quarters cannot safely house a large number of people during this time. 

How Are Cities Housing their Homeless Citizens?

When traditional buildings are not available or cannot be used, municipalities must get creative in their approach to building shelters. Unfortunately, not all of the solutions currently being used are safe or humane. 

For example, the city of Phoenix deemed a concrete parking lot surrounded by a chain-link fence to be a shelter for their homeless population. Their homeless population must sleep on asphalt at night and is exposed to direct sunlight throughout the day. These are not qualities of a safe or humane shelter.

Similarly, the city of Tampa recently set up a plot of land with 100 tents to serve as a shelter for their homeless citizens. While tents do offer some privacy and shelter for individuals, they are not a safe solution. The elements can completely destroy a tent. This includes the following:

  • High winds
  • Torrential rains
  • Heavy snow
  • Hail
  • Extreme heat and freezing temperatures
  • High humidity
  • Hurricanes
  • Thunderstorms

In this way, tents offer little to no security or safety for homeless individuals.

Instead, municipalities should use engineered fabric structures to provide high-quality living spaces for their homeless population in a safe and humane way. 

[Related: The Benefits of Tension Fabric Buildings From Alaska Structures]

A Humane Approach to Housing Solutions for the Homeless

Municipalities should care about humane housing solutions for the homeless — not because it is good from a public relations perspective, but because at the end of the day, municipalities are made up of people who care about their citizens! 

By building safe and humane homeless shelters and navigation centers, municipalities show their devotion to resolving homelessness in their community.

Unfortunately, it is not always clear to municipality leadership exactly what is needed and what options are available. After all, the leaders have comfortable homes and can’t truly envision what it’s like to be homeless.

A Guide to Humane Housing Solutions for the Homeless

Here is a guide for municipalities to form navigation centers and humane housing solutions for the homeless in their communities.

Weather-Proof Shelters

First, any structure that serves as a temporary shelter for someone should be weather-proof. 

This helps ensure that residents and their belongings are protected from harsh elements year-round. It also provides security, knowing that your shelter will not be destroyed after inclement weather.

For this reason, municipalities should consider engineered fabric structures as an alternative to tents. Fabric structures are incredibly durable shelters, resistant to the following:

  • UV rays from sunlight
  • High wind gusts
  • Heavy snow and rain
  • Mold and mildew

The durability of these structures protects their occupants and minimizes their maintenance costs.

Privacy Without Permanence

Another key feature of a humane homeless shelter or navigation center is privacy. One of the many benefits of having a conventional home is having a private space to avoid unwanted interactions and harassment from strangers.

Privacy is often a very difficult thing to achieve outside of a permanent brick-and-mortar residence. If your only shelter is on an open plot of land or a parking lot, privacy is virtually impossible.

Thankfully, municipalities do not have to build permanent brick-and-mortar structures to offer their homeless residents the privacy they deserve. 

The Denali Building System™ from Alaska Structures® is a modular building system  that offers all the privacy and comfort of traditional buildings — without the permanence. That means no costly and timely construction. Plus, the shelter can be moved or stored away at any time with ease.

[Related: More Than Modular: The Mobility of Our Deployable Structures]

Access to Facilities

For many Americans, going to the bathroom is as easy as walking down the hall or upstairs. But for the thousands of homeless people in the U.S., finding a bathroom can be a huge challenge. Even rarer than finding a bathroom is finding a shower, laundry facilities, or a kitchen.

Access to these kinds of facilities can help a person with the following:

  • Improve and maintain hygiene and health.
  • Live life with dignity.
  • Increase their confidence.
  • Be empowered to engage with others.

For this reason, municipalities should consider adding these facilities to their navigation centers and homeless shelters to promote humane living conditions. 

Alaska Structures’ dry facilities and dining halls are the best building solutions on the market for adding necessary amenities to temporary homeless shelters, quickly and safely! 

In the midst of COVID-19, municipalities will be glad to hear that there are options for private showers — helping shelters promote hygiene while limiting opportunities for spreading the virus. 

[Related: Rethinking Dining Facilities — Alternative Solutions With Fabric Building Facilities]

Ready to Grow or Shrink

Humane homeless shelters and navigation centers should be a comfortable size as overcrowding limits resident privacy and puts their health at risk.

For this reason, city leaders should ensure their shelters can accommodate growth in the homeless population. This can be very difficult when shelters are brick-and-mortar buildings. Extending such buildings is usually time-consuming and costly.

However, engineered fabric structures, like those from Alaska Structures, are easily expandable and portable. 

If the city needs to expand, shrink, or move the structures, they can. This offers an optimal solution for city leaders in creating a shelter that is adaptable and long-lasting. 

Safety, but Not Isolation

In addition, navigation centers and humane housing for the homeless should provide safety without being isolating. For instance, many spaces offered to homeless people are single-occupancy tents. This may work to protect homeless individuals from the COVID-19 virus, but is unlikely to work for homeless families. 

Living in a single-occupancy dwelling that is completely separated from your family is likely to be psychologically taxing.  

To combat this kind of isolation, municipalities can consider offering a range of single or multiple-occupancy dwellings. The good news is that both of these options are available when cities choose engineered fabric structures for their homeless shelters. 

Proximity to Social Services

Finally, something cities should consider when building their homeless shelters and navigation centers is proximity to social services in the community.

Of course, it is not always possible to locate homeless shelters near social services facilities. Municipalities can now consider building local offices for these agencies on-site at the homeless shelter.

Beautiful, modular, and state-of-the-art office buildings can be built anywhere! 

Just take a look at these modular office solutions from Alaska Structures.

[Related: Field Offices for Quick Deployment — Only From Alaska Structures]

Fabric Structures for Safe and Smart Homeless Shelters and Navigation Centers

Fabric structures are by far the safest and most flexible housing solution city leaders can choose to shelter their homeless residents. Beyond this, engineered fabric structures are a smart choice because they…

  • Don’t need foundations. This makes these structures easier to install than traditional wood and metal structures.
  • Are quick and easy to set-up. Set-up takes just a fraction of the time that traditional construction does. 
  • Have several cost-saving benefits. Natural lighting, water-saving toilets, energy efficiency, and insulation all cut down on typical operational costs. 
  • Are low-maintenance. From mold and mildew resistance to safety glass mirrors, engineered fabric structures are durable with little to no maintenance required

Whether your city needs a small temporary homeless shelter or a large camp system, Alaska Structures offers a range of safe and high-performance building solutions for housing the homeless across the country. 

[Related: Operating Remote Camps During COVID-19]

Build Humane Housing Solutions and Navigation Centers for the Homeless in Your Community

Start building navigation centers and humane housing solutions for the homeless in your community with help from Alaska Structures’ friendly building specialists. We’ll walk you through every step of the planning, design, and construction process.

Your shelter will be up and running on time and within budget! Contact us today to get started:

Telephone: +1-907-344-1565


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