As nighttime temperatures drop and a harsh winter approaches, the Salvation Army in Britain is turning to an innovative, high-tech form of lodging designed not just to keep the homeless from sleeping on freezing streets at night but also ensuring that emergency services can be alerted if they stop breathing.
At a time when many communal-style shelters have yet to be made safe against the spread of the coronavirus, the Salvation Army is providing “Nap Pads” to so-called “rough sleepers”—people who lack adequate shelter at night—and the homeless.
Nap pads are mobile, self-contained units that offer clean and warm shelter while monitoring people sleeping inside in case they stop breathing. The pads check for “vital life signs” through non-invasive sensors that are based on technology used in battling sudden infant death syndrome—the unexplained demise of babies, usually in their sleep.
Each nap pad unit has a single bed, a toilet, sink, security door, window, power point, heater and LED light. Besides protecting people who have trouble getting off the streets and finding accommodation, the nap pads offer a private and dignified space to sleep, according to the Salvation Army.
At least 976 people who lacked a stable home died in Britain in 2020, according to the Museum of Homelessness, a project launched in London in October to highlight the issue of homelessness during the pandemic.
“Sadly, most rough sleepers have multiple health problems as sleeping on the streets is dangerous and tough on the body, so these pads mean we can keep people safe as well as warm and dry,” says Malcolm Page, the Salvation Army’s assistant director of homelessness services.
“Tacking homelessness is more than offering shelter,” Page added. “It is helping people to move on from the reasons they were forced to sleep on the streets in the first place.”
The nap pads have an informal atmosphere that makes it comfortable for the homeless to meet with members of the Salvation Army’s support team to discuss more permanent housing options, Page said.
“The technology to make sure you are safe is amazing,” a 19-year-old rough sleeper identified only as Jay told Premier Christian News, an online site that monitors developments surrounding Christians worldwide.
“Knowing that it’s safe and if something goes wrong someone is going to help you is a comfort,” said Jay. “On the streets, if you can’t breathe nobody knows—nobody knows where you are and nobody can call for help. This will be life-saving.”
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