This Billboard Serves as a Homeless Shelter—and Pays for Itself

An architecture firm came up with a clever way to help solve a growing social problem.

This Billboard Serves as a Homeless Shelter—and Pays for Itself
(Photo: @jrdelalamo/Twitter)
Kristina Bravo is a Los Angeles–based writer. She is an Assistant Editor at TakePart.

Engineers have revamped billboards to produce drinking water and eat pollution. Now a design firm in Slovakia is converting the advertising structures into apartments for the country’s vagrant population.

Architects at Design Develop came up with the ingenious idea to take advantage of Slovakia’s typical two-sided billboard, which is low to the ground and already wired for electricity. The plan is to build small quarters—complete with a bed that doubles as storage, a kitchen, a desk, and a bathroom—in the triangular space between the two boards. Here’s what’s even cooler than the optimized design: The apartment will pretty much pay for itself.

“Money from the rent of two advertisements for 12 months should cover the costs for the building,” Matej Nedorolik, Design Develop’s business manager, told Fast Company. “If we find a company that could rent an advertisement for 12 months and also pay for it in advance, we can start with construction of the house.”

Besides advertising, the not-for-profit project, called Project Gregory, also offers a way for brands to get into the social responsibility space.

Could it catch on in other parts of the world? The existing energy and water grids of Banská Bystrica, the Slovakian city where the project is based, allow easy implementation of the firm’s blueprint. According to Project Gregory’s website, the plan can be replicated in other urban places as well, though research is crucial for determining the plan’s viability in specific areas. The initiative is also meant to be open sourced, meaning other architects, designers, and artists could customize and refine the construction plan.

The idea of placing the homeless at the hands of paying brands might seem questionable. But with an estimated 100 million people without permanent addresses in the world and persistently high housing prices, homelessness seems to be only getting worse. It’s always great to see innovative solutions for such a widespread social problem. Last year a Vancouver group introduced bus benches that also serve as shelters for the homeless (seven have been installed around the region). Project Gregory continues that trend—and soon we might just see fewer people living on the streets and the stigma of homelessness come to an end.

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