We, as a team identified four distinct stages of homelessness, ranked from the worst living conditions, to the most acceptable and relatively comfortable Stage 1: - living on the streets (sleeping at train and bus stations). Presents issues with staying warm in the colder climates, streets are dangerous when it comes to crime, creates problems with personal hygiene (lack of public restrooms, and/or showers), essentially the person living in such conditions is the most vulnerable homeless human. Stage 2: - shelter living. Most homeless shelters in the US have a time limit on how long the humans can stay there, and while they do provide basic services, such as food and bathroom access, they are oftentimes heavily underfunded and significantly underdeliver on the help they provide. Stage 3: - vehicular homelessness - oftentimes, people who are starting out on their new career after living out on the streets cannot afford to purchase or even rent an actual living space initially and hence, resort to acquiring a used vehicle which they use as a home. While this solves the issue of security of personal possessions and drastically decreases the risk of becoming a crime victim, other issues remain the same for people experiencing vehicular homelessness. Stage 4: - couchsurfing, many people resort to perpetually crashing at their friends or family houses while having to move oftentimes.
What it does
The Home Dolley allows us to help people in the most vulnerable, first, stage of homelessness. We built an affordable (under a $100 USD total project cost) mini-smart-home that provides basic living amenities to the homeless person. Built out of durable, strong, thermally insulated, lightweight and secure polymer materials, provided by the Dixie Chemical, we were able to build a 6 ft. long, 3 ft. wide, 4 ft. tall, cabin on casters that features a sleeping pad, a Coleman gasoline stove, a styrofoam cooler, Tupperware storage, a lockable door, an outside attachment for a bicycle lock, a 2.5 gallon tap water container, and a PVC pipe shower. Providing such basic and necessary amenities allows one to keep personal possessions and self relatively secure, stay warm in colder climates because of the insulative qualities of polymers materials used. Additionally, since it's such a small space, we implemented battery-powered lights and an Arduino-based smoke and temperature detectors that alert the denizen of any emergency that might arise. Moreover, with the price of the unit being just under $100 USD, less than two days salary for a minimum wage employee in the US, it is affordable for purchase by the homeless humans themselves, charity organizations and governments alike. An important disclaimer: we're not marketing this as a final solution to homelessness, but as a temporary safe space for people who are striving to a life in a home.
How I built it
We designed the frame and built a frame with a layer of polymer insulation in between. Initially, we were intending to use polymer materials as wall and roof pieces as well. Unfortunately, due to material unavailability we ended up using plywood and aluminium extrusions for our walls
Challenges I ran into
Alumninium extrusions and plywood are simply not nearly as strong and rigid as their polymer alternatives, hence it took us way longer than expected to "debug" this living space from a lack of structural integrity
Accomplishments that I'm proud of
This is our first makeathon ever as a team of high school students, and we built EXACTLY what we planned!
What I learned
Tons and tons of woodworking hacks, a bunch of Arduino tricks and that meeting other weirdos is always lots of fun
What's next for The Home Dolley
We're going to make the design open-source after we entirely finish the design process, and since we all have access to machine shops at our schools, we'll be accepting case-by-case orders for The Home Dolley at the material cost.