My big idea is to BUSt the immediate crisis accommodation needs for many of Australia's 105,000 homeless citizens by using low cost, recycled materials to convert replaced public transport buses into quality, mobile, short term accomodation modules.

Many thousands of Australians comfortably use campervans. motor homes or caravans for both short and long term accommodation. Most of these people are not homeless. My big idea aims to meet the immediate crisis accommodation needs of many of Australia's 105,000 homeless citizens( 0.5 % of the population, 2011 census). Utilising low cost and recycled materials to convert replaced public transport buses and coaches to quality, mobile, short term accommodation modules, these citizens can have a safe, secure and dignified roof in the rain.

The Problem

On any given night in Australia, 1 in 200 people are homeless. (source: Homelessness Australia)

Current fact sheets from this source provide disturbing data. Of the 105,237 experiencing homelessness on census night 2011 (up 8% from 2006), examples include: - children under the age of 18 (27%); - females (44%) - Aboriginal or Torres Strait Islanders (25%) - born overseas (30%)

45% of homeless were either sleeping in improvised (rough) or severely overcrowded dwellings.

Many service providers are unable to effectively meet the crisis accommodation needs for those fleeing domestic violence, experiencing mental health emergencies or facing immediate eviction.

The Solution


State rail and transit buses and coaches used for public transport throughout Australian cities have come in a range of models, sizes and layouts over the last 30 years. In general, they may be Mercedes, Volvo or Scania models ranging in length from 10m to 14m. The 'bendy' buses can approach 18m in length. All are approximately 2.5 m wide on single or dual rear axles. State governments have ongoing upgrade and replacement plans for their fleets. Some of these buses and coaches may:

  • 'kneel,' to accommodate aged or disabled passengers and have level floors throughout

  • have under floor or over head storage and windows/doors that can be locked and controlled

  • accommodate the toilet or wheelchair needs of passengers and include coordinated lighting

  • have temperature modification systems, audio/visual suites or electronic ticket scanning

The total floor area for these standard buses and coaches may range from 25 to over 35 square metres.

The Big Picture

Motor homes for the homeless can be designed and built to the same high standards as anything you might see at contemporary camping and caravan shows. Ample, secure parking for small fleets of self contained buses already exists in our towns and cities. The solution initially requires the coordination and long term commitment of effective public, private and community partnerships that must:

  • identify the short term accommodation requirements for multiple, small space occupancy

  • liaise with bus and coach construction companies to determine best practice for modifications

  • design and develop floor plans to meet the needs of individuals, families or identified groups

  • identify and acquire appropriate buses and coaches on terms that meet community expectations

  • engage community construction and businesses teams to modify the vehicles to agreed standards

  • incorporate sanitation, security, telecommunication and emergency response facilities in the bus

  • arrange for ongoing registration, insurance and mechanical, cleaning and residential maintenance

  • train and develop teams of drivers/carers/coordinators with responsibility for small fleets

  • negotiate secure parking for buses in schools, hospitals, industrial areas, recreation grounds, etc

  • liaise with, and engage established security agencies and systems that currently serve these areas

  • integrate this solution with the current government, private and charitable homelessness agencies

  • provide sophisticated logistics to ensure the effective, ongoing and targeted use of each vehicle

What this solution could look like?

My regional town has identified the need for 20 crisis accommodation beds each night for our neighbours. The 5 buses now in our fleet each cater for 4 - 6 homeless people and are purpose built to meet the needs of youth, families and the disabled. Local businesses, agencies, volunteers, individuals and contractors monitor, coordinate and manage the fleet 24 hours a day. On board technologies, mobile phone apps and security pass systems give service providers and clients immediate access to an accommodation bus either here or with the fleets in neighbouring towns. Our partnerships with local taxi and ride-sharing organisations provide quick and secure access for clients to this accommodation. On board communication systems allow people to stay connected. We help in their time of need.

At 9pm, four buses are located in the car park of the local high school. One bus is parked in an undisclosed location for safety reasons. Tonight 15 of our citizens have an emergency warm bed and a dignified respite. Overnight, two more people are accommodated at the school fleet and a mother with two children under 10 has been found a secure refuge from domestic violence in the other vehicle.

At 6am, when the school cleaners open the gates, the fleet quietly moves to designated parking at the local aquatic centre. Established partnerships now ensure access to showers, morning meals and links with service providers. By 10am, the buses have dropped students at school, clients at work, some individuals at appropriate health care centres and others into town. The buses are then located in the car park of a nearby partnering motel. As part of the motel's regular cleaning and service provisions for their rooms, each module in each bus is cleaned and provisioned. By 12 noon, the fleet is parked adjacent to the town centre. Some of last night's clients can return to their module if their stay is ongoing. New clients are supported to their modules. Following evening meals at the refuge, the fleet picks up in town by 8pm to overnight in the car park at the local hardware chain. The regular security services here connect generously and seamlessly in support of our fleet's purpose.

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