NEWS

Sleepbus Hopes To Give Our Homeless Access To Safe Beds

The founder wishes his service didn't have a reason to exist.

01/03/2017 9:11 AM AEDT | Updated 01/03/2017 9:17 AM AEDT

A Victoria-based charity is on a mission to bring homeless Australians safe overnight accommodation with a self-described "aggressive goal" of ending the need for people sleeping rough within six years.

Their chief weapon? A bus.

Sleepbus, the brainchild of Simon Rowe, is a refurbished coach that will provide accommodation for up 22 people each night, with individual lockable pods providing guests with a bed (pillows, sheets and a quilt included), free-to-air TV, air conditioning and a USB charging point.

For the charity's founder, the mobility of the bus, which will disappear and remain out of sight (and operation) during the day, appeases those in the community who oppose having permanent shelters built in their areas.

Rowe, who has professionally worked as a business consultant, quit his job to dedicate himself the charity, initially relying on his personal savings before corporate sponsors got on board and provided him with their "blind support".

"All I can do is have a crack and see if it can help," he told The Huffington Post Australia.

Sleepbus
Sleepbus founder Simon Rowe was inspired after an encounter with a homeless who was forced to sleep during the day so that he could keep himself safe at night.

"I didn't do this for a job, I thought I could help and I thought I should because I could."

The inspiration for the pods came from Japan's famous capsule hotels, however privacy curtains have been substituted for a lockable roller door that can be controlled by guests and an on-board caretaker.

"It's not going to be for everybody, I get that, but it's there if you need it," Rowe said.

"I've decided just to focus on one thing -- just a safe place to sleep to get your head together."

Sleepbus
Each pod contains an intercom and free-to-air TV, with headphones included to minimise noise.

Guests can communicate with each other and with the on-board caretaker through an intercom in each pod, while the TV has a dedicated channel with a loop of ads giving guests information about relevant services within a 2km radius.

On board, the bus also boasts two toilets and personal lockers while underneath, there are luggage storage bins for larger items of gear and eight pet pods for the companion animals of guests. The pet pods are equipped with air conditioning and an intercom and video link to their owner's pod above.

With the first bus finished and ready to go, it's hoped that within six years a total of 319 sleepbuses will service many of Australia's major cities and regional centres, however Rowe optimistically hopes that within a decade there will no longer be a need for them, adding that the bus shouldn't even be necessary in the first place.

Prior to designing the bus, Rowe, who was homeless himself for four months at the age of 19, went undercover in various shelters to get a greater sense of what life was like for those relying on them.

"I felt like I needed to experience it myself," he said.

Sleepbus
Underneath, there are 8 'pet pods' with a video link and intercom so that owners can communicate with their companions.

"The one that struck me was [when] I went to a place with a big hall and mattresses. It was really noisy, people were scattered, picking fights. The guy next to me -- as soon as his head hit the pillow -- was asleep but half an hour into it, people were going through his things and stealing them.

"Being in that environment freaked me out."

There's only one planned rule for Rowe's shelter: quiet enjoyment.

Sleepbus / Facebook
The first sleepbus has been finished and is ready to go, all that's needed is a willing council to give the final tick of approval.

"The more rules we put in place, that's where the conflict happens. I've tried to take as many of those away while still keeping safe," Rowe said.

"If you look like you're drunk or on drugs, I don't really care as long as you feel like you can keep it together.

"It's not a free-for-all, we lock in at 8pm at night. Get everyone on by 9.30 pm -- if at that stage you want to leave, you can, but you can't come back. We don't want people coming and going all the time."

With the first sleepbus finished, Rowe said that the only thing preventing it from entering into service is the lack of a Melbourne council willing to provide the charity with a parking permit and location for the bus to be parked overnight for 7 days a week.

Since posting a plea to Facebook however, the founder has received phone calls from five mayors around Melbourne and expects the bus to enter into operation within the next week.

Sleepbus
Each pod has a lockable roller door that guests can control.

More On This Topic