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How Mini Homes Are Helping The Homeless

A team from The University of Cambridge has collaborated with the New Meaning Foundation, in order to finance and construct several ‘mini-homes’ to help those who have found themselves homeless.  

Since the launch of the project in 2019, a total of sixteen new homes have been built on an area of land which was leased from a church in Cambridge city. Each home spans across an area of 25 square metres, coming fully equipped for residential  use with a mini kitchen, bathroom and front porch. The cost of each unit stands at around £36,000, which is almost equivalent to the amount of public spending on one person sleeping rough for a year in the UK. However, for individuals who find themselves homeless, these homes are without a doubt more beneficial than rough sleeping, providing much needed support to help to re-build lives.

Over the last few years homeless charity Jimmy’s Cambridge investigated the effectiveness of the project, and to no surprise they observed extremely encouraging results thanks to their efforts. They found that the mini houses helped to restore health, relationships and finances of residents, as well as improvements in other areas such as:

- Reduced drug and alcohol misuse.    

- Boosted physical and mental health among residents.

- Increased financial management and increased work or training.

- Renewed relationships with family members.

- The charity also provides services such as addiction counselling and cookery classes, helping to build up essential life skills.

Many residents have displayed their delight at the generous support they have received:

“Now I talk to my daughter every week, twice a week… I’ve been clean for 14 months. She’s coming to see me here for my birthday in July,” - One of the first mod residents, who reconnected with his daughter after decades apart.

“I feel happy right now…I feel I’m in control of my life right now” - An early mod resident.

One resident entered a detox programme after spending around twenty years on opiates. “Living here, oh everything is good!... It’s got me off drugs, got a roof over my head, it’s got me back to work… Everything’s positive.”

After a year in the mods, some were pursuing new training in areas including hairdressing, while others revisited old trades. “I’m returning to my passion. I’ve got a goal; I’ve got a plan. I can’t believe I’m saying that…” said one resident.

Researchers who have overseen the project argue that the homes create a stable routine, and provide individuals with a sense of security, with anthropologist and Cambridge co-author Dr Johannes Lenhard stating:

“We can see the effect this has in the lifestyle changes of people who have previously struggled in hostels. It gives them the opportunity to re-make a home and a life. Mods are a cost-effective and flexible stepping stone that help rough sleepers in desperate situations transition into permanent homes and settled lives.”

Overall the use of these ‘mini-homes’ has presented the residents with a chance for rehabilitation, allowing them to acquire many skills which will stand them in good stead as they ease back into society. Hopefully this can inspire more similar projects around the globe.