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'Tears of joy' as Ilford night shelter guests get mattresses and private pods

PUBLISHED: 16:00 02 December 2019 | UPDATED: 17:00 02 December 2019

Guests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation Army

Guests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation Army

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Accommodation for rough sleepers at an Ilford night shelter has been upgraded to include private pods and proper mattresses.

Guests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George FisherGuests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George Fisher

George Fisher, an architecture student and volunteer at the shelter at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre, based at Ilford Salvation Army in Clements Road, designed the pods as part of his masters programme at Central Saint Martins.

The winter shelter opened in 2011 with beds on the floor, before upgrading to camp beds and now private pods.

Volunteers came together on Saturday, November 30, to build the 18 pods.

"There were tears of joy when the men and women sleeping there this evening saw the improved facilities," a spokesman for Ilford Salvation Army said.

Guests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George FisherGuests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George Fisher

"The shelter started on the floor, then we got camp beds, and now we have pods, with proper mattresses.

"There's a chalkboard space on each pod for the guest's name - it's their own space, private, and with some comfort for a safe and warm night's sleep."

George, 25, started volunteering at Ilford Salvation Army in November last year.

"After a while I suggested to John Clifton - the Ilford Salvation Army captain - to try and improve the sleeping situation there," he said.

Guests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George FisherGuests at Redbridge Cold Weather Centre in Ilford now have private pods and proper mattresses, thanks to George Fisher's project. Picture: George Fisher

The design was inspired by the Reed Watts Architects homeless pod, who shared their design with George.

Using many of the same connection details as Reed Watts, George created a new, lower design to suit the needs of the Ilford shelter.

"Before, it was just camp beds with no privacy - people struggled to sleep, there was no storage and people were referred to by numbers which didn't feel very personal," he said.

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"They now have their own personal space. They have storage, a shelf, space to pin up posters, a place to write their name. They can now take ownership of the small space they have.

"Hopefully it's more of a stable environment to be in.

"And from what I've heard, people are overjoyed and were crying when they saw the result.

"I would like to thank John and Cedric Lungiambudi from the Salvation Army, along with all the volunteers who helped on the build.

Guests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation ArmyGuests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation Army

"Thank you to Cut and Construct for giving a reduced price on the CNC milling, Commonweal Housing and TfL for their donations to pay for the milling and Lawsons and James Latham for providing the plywood."

George is now working with Reed Watts and Commonweal Housing to create an open source pod template that be used by other night shelters across the country so that this can be a replicable model.

All the shelters will need are the design files and a CNC miller to create their own homeless sleeping pods.

George emphasised that he doesn't see these pods as the solution.

Guests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation ArmyGuests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation Army

"No one should have to sleep in a pod," he said. "Despite this, they have hugely improved the current situation."
His project is now looking at how the homeless can transition from homeless to homeowner through the Community Land Trust housing model.

"There are not many architects designing specifically for homeless people - it's something that I want to engage in," he said.

Ilford Salvation Army thanked Lawsons Timber, Building and Fencing Supplies, and Lathams Ltd for providing the timber for the pods, Commonweal Housing and Cut and Construct for help with the costs of CNC milling, and all the volunteers who gave up their time to build the new accommodation.

Captain John Clifton said: "We are very grateful to George for driving this project forward, and to all the organisations and businesses that have given money and material support to make this happen. When we first opened the shelter in 2011, our aim was to show hospitality to people facing homelessness.

Guests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation ArmyGuests at the Redbridge Cold Weather Centre at Ilford Salvation Army now have private pods and proper mattresses. Picture: Ilford Salvation Army

"This ethos is central to our Christian faith, and these pods help us do that in an even better way."

If you would like to support Ilford Salvation Army, donate here

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