Homelessness is a community problem that exists nearly everywhere in the world. Rather than punishing the homeless or chasing them away from their regular sleeping spots, more and more communities are instituting programs to help the homeless population. This transforming bench concept from designers Ke Wan, Xiaohua Ma, Xing Guo & Qingxiang Zhu is called Homeless Haven, and it is meant to do double duty as daytime park furniture and nighttime shelter.
The objects are low park benches in daylight hours; later, their tops lift up via a scissor-like hinge and lock into place, creating a small sleeping space inside. People who need shelter for the night can climb into the den-like area and curl up for a good night’s sleep. While it isn’t as comfortable as a bed, the transforming bench does provide some shelter from the elements.
The drawbacks of the Homeless Haven are the same that plague other outdoor sleeping arrangements: there is a high probability that users can be harassed, abused, or stolen from as they sleep in the door-less chamber. The likelihood for vandalism is high as well, but these risks would hopefully be outweighed by the positive aspects of the Homeless Haven if it should ever be made into a reality.
Realistically, however, nobody should ever be sleeping under a park bench, and the very fact that inventions like this exist points to the need for actual housing for all during this global affordable housing crisis. Unfortunately, even if we were to rely on short-term stopgaps like the Homeless Haven just to make people more comfortable while sleeping in public places, the quantity of unhoused people in major cities is giving local governments pause in encouraging them to camp in parks. That’s leading to an increase in “hostile architecture.” We barely have park benches for all people to sit on anymore, let alone benches that can be comfortable to sleep on.