These Awesome Bus Benches Double as Homeless Housing

A Vancouver organization’s pop-up shelters provide a dry spot to sleep.

(Photo courtesy of RainCity Housing/Spring Advertising) 

Jun 27, 2014· 1 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

It rains a whopping 200 days out of the year in Vancouver, which isn’t terrible if you have a cozy pair of galoshes and a warm, dry sofa to curl up on every evening. But what if you’re homeless and spending the night sleeping on an exposed bus bench?

That’s where some tricked-out transit seats are helping to save the day. Equipped with a pop-up “roof,” the benches keep residents of the Canadian city with no place to go from getting drenched.

The benches were created in 2013 by local advertising agency Spring and grassroots advocacy group RainCity Housing, which provides progressive services to Vancouver’s homeless. During the day, the benches serve as seating for those waiting for the bus to arrive. At night, the front lifts up and out to create an overhang. The back of the bench tells homeless people, “Find a home here,” and it gives RainCity’s address.

“We don’t know if they have been used by homeless folks, but probably,” Bill Briscall, the organization’s communications manager, told The Telegraph. The need in Vancouver is certainly there: “In a park one block from my house I see people sleeping overnight almost every month throughout the year,” Briscall said.

The benches are a welcome contrast to the trend of draconian laws and policies that negatively affect the homeless. Norway hopes to make begging punishable by jail time. Earlier this month, anti-homeless spikes sparked controversy in London; a posh apartment building had installed the pointy pieces of metal in an effort to keep people from sleeping on its grounds.

Meanwhile, here in the U.S., cities have installed transit seats with dividers or have turned to impossible-to-lie-on curved benches to keep homeless folks from sleeping on them. While the goal is to help people get off the street and into permanent housing, this solution in Vancouver is nice to see.