Homeless Emergency Shelter


Not long ago I read a book called ‘Zero Yen Houses’ by Kyohei Sakaguchi and ‘Fragile Dwellings’ by Margaret Morton.
Kyohei’s pictorial book shows a striking view of the many homeless older single men living in the cities of Japan.  Margaret spent 10 years documenting and capturing on black and white film, telling images of several dozen homeless people in NewYork city.
These books moved me. After reading them, I couldn’t help but to re-visit the bicycle camper and  see if I could come up with a more practical and useful structure that might be used by a single homeless person or as an emergency shelter, where one or a couple could gain some privacy and sleep.

After playing around with an 8′ flexable strip of wood, I settled on a mini quanset hut design.  So with a budget of $100 for materials I went shopping for my favorite material, Coropast, better known as ‘flutted plastic.’

I bought 4 sheets of 4mm coroplast from Llard plastics in Seattle. I chose coroplast for its unique qualities of flexability, versatility, water resistance, strength, light weight and insulating properties, plus coroplast is cheap.

Coro Shelter SideFlexing the roof down was my first choice for entrance, with the potential of sunshade characteristics like the bicycle camper, but the width and length made it too flimsy.

InteriorAssembly was nearly complete. I just needed to clip off the zip tie ends. I used 8″ long plastic zip ties for assembly, about 12o in all.

1 Ply Door

IMG_2193I was planning on using a single thickness entry wall and door but this proved too flimsy. I then tried a 1/4″ mahogany plywood wall and door, but I later decided to go all coroplast just to keep the structure simple and recyclable.

Emergency Homeless Shelter Taped SeamsA 20 yard roll of 2″ yellow duct tape was used to cover the exposed zip tie holes on the roof.

Shelter OutdoorsI later decided to increase the window size and have it swing open for more ventilation. The double walled door houses the window when it’s open.

New WindowThe door hinge was made by cutting the coroplast on one side of the outer layer, going against the flutes. The inside layer was made smaller to act as a door jam.
The lock hasp, inside latch and fastening bolts and nylon lock nuts are the only metal hardware on the shelter. An insect screen covers the vent holes on the front and rear.

Shelter InteriorWith the remaining scraps a simple water jug stand was installed, also creating a space underneath for a trash can.

Interior 1

Interior 2

Interior 3 Reading

I managed to stuff in as many essentials that a person might need to get by comfortably except for shower, toilet and laundry facilities.

 The shelter is 40″ wide by 81″ long, making 22.5 square feet. The height is 38″. It weighs 23 pounds.
For emergency deployment I’m envisioning a pre-cut ready to assemble shelter wrapped in a 4′ x 8′ x 1″ package. Included would be universal pictorial assembly instructions, zip ties, snips and tape. The door wall and its nut and bolt hardware could be pre-assembled. Assembly time should be roughly an hour. A stack 50″ high on one pallet would yeild 50 shelters.
Using plastic materials obviously would not keep a person with a knife from entering, but the lock would keep an honest person honest.

Coroplast can be ordered with UV inhibitors and comes in a variety of colors and patterns, even camouflage for discrete homeless shelters, or bright colors for Emergency victims. Coroplast can also be screen printed. This is the same material used for outdoor campaign signs.

These are crappy plans but they’ll get you going if you’re interested in fabricating this shelter. Click on the images to enlarge them.
Feel free to contact me for further questions at:


Mini Quonset Hut Emergency Shelter

shelter lay-out

 homeless shelter plans

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