Even Los Angeles gets chilly this time of year, but these origami-inspired shelters aim to provide at least temporary protection from the elements for the region's many homeless people.
Tina Hovsepian’s pop-up Cardborigami shelters are lightweight, compact, and can expand like an accordion within seconds to become a capsule dwelling fit for one adult person. (The name is a portmanteau of "cardboard' and "origami.")
The water-resistant, flame-retardant and recyclable shelters are the first part of Hovsepian’s plan to alleviate homelessness in L.A. County, a region in which some 58,000 people are estimated to be living on the streets.
Hovsepian, who has worked with outreach programs in the city's Skid Row area, came up with the Cardborigami concept in 2007 while studying architecture at the University of Southern California.
"People can just pull it open to have a floor, roof and door they can use, and when they need to move, they can fold it up literally in a minute and it becomes a backpack they can strap to their back to go hands-free," she told Fast Company's Co.Exist blog.
Cardborigami has been on display at the Berkshire Museum in Pittsfield, Mass., and won multiple design and sustainability awards.
Hovsepian found that cardboard, while cheap to procure, also has natural insulating properties and is structurally sound when folded into ridges. She has since refined her original design to add flame-retardant and weatherproofing coatings.
Each unit weights 10 pounds and costs about $30. Cardborigami is depending on donors and grants as well as using sales of special disaster-relief shelters to help fund the homeless aid efforts.
The next order of shelters will be made out of corruplast, or corrugated plastic.
“This will mean they are completely waterproofed and will last much longer,” Hovsepian told Strombo.com in an email.
The L.A. outreach network PATH (People Assisting the Homeless) is on board with the project, calling Cardborigami an "amazing design."
"We do commend its creativity and the basic need it fulfills for those in need of shelter," Jeremy Sidell, a PATH spokesman, told Strombo.com in an email. "As it pertains to homelessness, PATH believes that the only suitable place for someone to live is in a home. Not a car, not a park, not a box, just a home."
Hovsepian feels the same way. She characterizes Cardborigami, which has grown into a non-profit organization, as just one part of a multi-phase process. "Usually people think we are going to simply hand out these shelters," she wrote. "However, I think the main point here is that we are raising awareness and filling a huge gap between mass shelters and life on the streets."
Hovsepian said the temporary shelters are only stepping stones, and that homeless people can enrol in a permanent housing program and get job training and social services through Cardborigami.
The Cardborigami model also includes more direct job opportunities for the homeless as they transition out of a life on the streets: assembling and manufacturing the shelters.
"I think my goal of raising awareness and changing the negative perception society has toward the homeless community is definitely a success," she wrote. "Now, we need funding in order to implement our program, refine it, and actually help some people, as intended."
Hovsepian plans to have 10 Cardborigami shelters in use in Sacramento next year.
Via Fast Company