London architect wins award for designing shelter pods for rough sleepers

I call that forward thinking!

An architect from London has won an award for his innovative designs for ‘pods’ that give shelter to homeless people.

James Furzer came up with a design for small pods that can be attached to the side of any “host” building or structure to provide a safe place for homeless people to sleep at night.

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urzer said part of his inspiration came from the growing number of metal spokes which have been appearing in popular sleeping spots to deter the homeless from sleeping there.

His design won the top prize in the ‘Space for New Visions’ competition organised by Farko, a global manufacturer of roof windows and loft ladders.

Read: Spikes removed after 120,000 signature petition

The number of homeless people sleeping rough has increased significantly over the past few years; youth homeless charity Centrepoint says the number of young people sleeping rough has more than doubled over the past…

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What’s next?

I recently realized that I will have to apply for graduate school sometime this winter. The university I am attending right now does offer my field of study, but I want to look around and see if there is an adventure waiting for me somewhere else. So far, I’ve looked into Universities in the US (Wisconsin, Illinois, Colorado), France (mainly Paris), New Zealand, Canada, and Great Britain.

There are pros and cons to each place. If I go overseas, I will have to start from scratch again. I have no inclinations towards giving up my hobo life and I am not sure how exactly that would work in another country. Also, I am not a city hobo, so cities such as Paris may not be for me anyway. I loved it while I was visiting, but I remember thinking that it is one giant tourist attraction.

If I stay in the U.S., I can pretty much keep living the way I am and yet enjoy a new adventure. I’ve heard that Wisconsin is pretty damn cold during the winter. It ranks one place above Colorado in coldness based on average temperatures. Can’t be that much colder, right? OK, I have no idea. Maybe I should find me a warmer place to live, but I am not sure if the south is for me either. I’ve been to Florida, Alabama, and Georgia and while I love the weather, I am not a fan of the crime rates down there.

I know there are free spirits all over the world; let me know what you think! Have you lived in any of these places? Have you studied there? How’s the hobo life there? Share your experience!

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EUREKA DECLARES VICTORY OVER HOMELESSNESS

Pah! They wish! It ain´t that easy…right? *hides in a bush*

Tuluwat Examiner

MOLA:42’s Guide to Societal Magical Thinking

CITY OF EUREKA DECLARES VICTORY OVER HOMELESSNESS

(EUREKA) In a recent press conference City of Eureka officials declared they have solved the homeless problem “once and for all.”

“I didn’t realize it would be this easy,” observed Eureka Police Department Chief Andrew Mills.

“I mean, one minute they were there and then POOF! They were gone” said Chief Mills. “We should have tried this sooner. “

Police officers at the scene handing out eviction notices behind the Bayshore Mall (popularly known as the “Devil’s Playground”) were hesitant to correct the Police Chief. But one officer pointed out, “They didn’t exactly go POOF! Rather they just disappeared with a flash of light and a loud POP!”

“It was pretty cool” another EPD officer added.

Eureka Police and City Government had recently decided to try new strategies to solve Eureka’s homeless problems.

According to City Manager…

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Hygiene for the Houseless

It’s 35°Celsius (95° Fahrenheit) outside, you’ve been exposed to the elements all day, and slowly but surely you realize that this obnoxious smell you’ve been running from for the last hour is coming from yourself. Now, if you are lucky, you’ll be able to jump into a nearby lake, river, stream, etc. and enjoy a nice bath (with bio degradable soap of course). However, sometimes clean running water is just not obtainable. Here are some tips and useful information regarding hygiene for the houseless.

Basic Hygiene

Living outside does not mean you should let go of any and all hygiene routines.

Firstly, people will treat you the way you look. Wanna take a short nap comfortably seated in a cafe? Try doing that looking like a homeless person… forget about it! If you look like a regular customer, people are much less likely to bother you or kick you out.

Secondly, a lack of basic hygiene comes at a price. Ever had one of those painful abscesses on your feet that itch like hell and smell even worse? It is rather difficult to get rid of those without some sort of medication. No Fun! Also, keep up your dental hygiene. Rotten teeth not only add to the “homeless look”, but bad teeth can also cause a lot of pain. Unless you have health insurance in a country with a good social system (Canada, Sweden, Germany), you will pay at least an arm and a leg to get your teeth fixed. It´s better to keep ´em healthy in the first place.

How to stay Clean and Healthy

“Showering”:

Consider getting a fitness center membership. It is difficult, but not impossible, to clean yourself well without a shower or at least a sink. I do have a membership at a gym and, besides showering and shaving, I also go swimming there. Also, being able to fully undress yourself (and not being arrested for it) allows you to discover wounds and other areas of  your body that may need attention. 

Do you need to shower every single day? Absolutely not. However, you shouldn’t just skip cleaning yourself because it isn´t `shower day´. As mentioned earlier, streams, rivers, and lakes (big, clean ones) are great for a nice bath. However, this is only true during the summer and parts of fall and spring.

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When there is no clean body of water close by, you will need to use spit baths as a mean of hygiene. Baby wipes are great. They don´t drip, won´t irritate your skin, and are compact. Use baby wipes when your last shower happened recently. If it´s been more than a couple days since your last shower or bath, you will need some serious water and soap.

Living outside often doesn´t allow for a whole lot of privacy. If you are in the woods, no problem. Heat up some water over a fire, put on your birthday suit, and let the cleaning begin. Urban campers and city hobos may have more difficulties finding a private spot. I prefer washing myself inside my vehicle. After covering all the windows, I spread a towel over my sleeping bag, and undress myself as much as the surroundings allow (you really don´t want a cop knocking on your window while you´re butt ass naked). I use a wash cloth and wash myself systematically with water and soap. Use some common sense: if it´s been near your butt, don´t wash your face with it!  Make sure you get as much of the soap off of you as possible. Soap residues make for extremely dry and itchy skin. Lotion will help keep your skin soft and smooth.

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Did you know that you need to actually clean your belly button when you don´t have access to running water? Well, I didn´t and one hot day curiosity overcame me and I stuck my finger in my belly button and… anyway, the point is that areas such as your ears, between your toes, and yes, your belly button all need more attention than usual.

Dental Hygiene:

As previously mentioned, dental hygiene will not only prevent painful tooth decay, but also allows you to blend in with the general public. It´s really not rocket science; all you need is a tooth brush, floss, and tooth paste. I handle brushing my teeth the way I handling cleaning my body: in private. I have a small trash can in my car, which, due to my allergies, is always filled with at least a few tissues. I use grocery bags as trash bags and together with the tissues that makes a perfect place to spit my tooth paste. However, the tissues won´t soak up much more than that, so no rinsing. Just have a drink of water after spitting out your toothpaste.

Keeping Things Clean:

In order to keep yourself clean and healthy, you need to keep everything around you clean as well. Do your laundry on a regular basis. This includes everything made of fabric such as blankets, shirts, socks, underwear!, sleeping bags, and jackets. Again, a river or stream can work here, but the laundromat is by far more convenient.

If you own a vehicle keep it clean and organized. A car that hasn´t been washed in years and that is packed with empty fast food bags and dirty clothes can make the difference between a good night and the cops bothering you. Sleeping in your car is illegal in many cities and the I-am-traveling-to-´random-town´-but-was-too-tired-to-keep-driving-excuse won´t work if your vehicle looks like a garbage truck. In addition, trash and food waste will attract rodents and insects. You most definitely don´t want that kind of company!

I have a bottle of cleaner in my SUV and clean all hard surfaces about once a week. Additionally, I empty out the back of my Ford weekly and shake out all my blankets and my sleeping bag. At least once a month, I spend a dollar at the gas station to completely vacuum out the inside.

That´s pretty much it. Do you have any additional tips, questions, or just something to say? Leave a comment!

Enjoy!

Untamed Spirits

Back when I thought I´d be spending my life surrounded by walls, I always envied the one thing most wild animals share: Freedom. Even the most fragile creatures (humans being the exception) are born into nature and quickly learn to navigate their way. What most humans label sophisticated or even superior, I label fake and disabling. Many people in industrialized nations couldn´t survive a night outside and thus are forced to live within society. Granted, many live a quite comfortable life and wouldn’t want it any other way. However, some of us still carry the wild and untamed essence of nature within us and need to roam freely.

I´ve seen into the eyes of many people. I´ve seen happiness, anger, wickedness, sadness, lust; the whole spectrum of human emotion. Nothing has ever moved me as much as seeing a wild spirit trapped and slowly dying.

Here is my personal collection of free animals I´ve gathered over the years (Click on image to enlarge). Enjoy!

Two ducklings after their morning swim. Stuttgart, Germany.

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A very upset bird of prey (a young Ferruginous Hawk maybe?). Wyoming Rocky Mountains, USA.

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A little chipmunk doing his hygiene routine. He didn´t mind me watching him. Colorado Rocky Mountains, USA.

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A female moose I almost ran into. Colorado Rocky Mountains, USA.

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A raven enjoying the city life. Paris, France.

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Butterfly! Georgia, USA.

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A hummingbird in action. Estes Park, USA.

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This deer is just hanging out in the town. Estes Park, USA.

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Not sure what kinda bird this guy is. But he´s handsome! Bodensee, Vienna.

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Yes, I am really into birds in case you couldn´t tell :). As usual, ask for permission if you´d like to use any of these photographs.

Best wishes to all the tree huggers and hobos out there!

Freedom is an Open Road

This is what it’s all about. This is peace. This is freedom. Simply beautiful.

roamwildandfree

Freedom is an Open Road

Written by my brother, Bobby Birkhofer, as a gift for my 22nd birthday

If you would like to share his work, please give credit to the amazing literary artist that he is!

As I sat upon a mountainside with all the world before me

I observed the sun high in the sky running its daily course

And I thought to myself ‘isn’t this the way things are supposed to be?’

And the answer came easily without any doubt, without remorse

All the money the world couldn’t buy a bluer sky than this

Nothing could warm my heart more than the sweet Wyoming sun

No worldly possessions could ever bring more happiness

Than the satisfaction I feel here when every day is done

So if I ever leave this country,

I’m sure it’s blue skies and western wind will always call me home

And I will…

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Moments of Joy

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Spending most of my time outside and traveling around the world, enables me to see the world as it really is. The air-conditioned world most live in appears rather dull and simply too “cushioned”.

A few years ago, I was in Germany at the time, a friend of mine wanted to show me his hometown Kassel. We got there by train and the winter scenery flying by my window kept me entertained the whole way. The little towns, most covered in light snow, evoked a feeling of nostalgia, although I had no particular memories to attach to this sensation. My friend pointed out landmarks such as the river ‘Fulda’ and the many castles around the area. We spent our first day doing regular tourist stuff like walking around the city and visiting a few interesting places such as the Orangerie (2nd Picture) and the Herkules (3rd Picture). My friend was eager to tell me everything he knew about the city, and so I spent most of my time listening and asking questions.

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Hier ist die Orangerie in Kassel zu sehen. Foto: Heiko Meyer

As the evening approached, we made our way to the Christmas market in the heart of the city. The atmosphere was stunning and I lost myself within the ocean of lights. The folk in their booths offered everything from Christmas decoration and winter clothing to candy and bratwurst. Here and there groups of people were engulfed in conversation. Nobody seemed to mind the cold, which could probably be attributed to the hot wine most of us were consuming. Finally, my friend dragged me away from it all and we made our way to a bar.

Hell erleuchtet ist am Montag (27.11.2006) der Weihnachtsmarkt auf dem Königsplatz in Kassel. Blickfänger ist die nach Angaben der Stadt Kassel größte Weihnachtspyramide der Welt. Der Märchenweihnachtsmarkt wurde am Nachmittag offiziell eröffnet. Foto: Uwe Zucchi dpa/lhe +++(c) dpa - Bildfunk+++

We had a blast! I remember paying an outrageous amount of money for the drinks we bought and accidentally putting down a glass so hard that it broke. After a few hours of stories and laughter, we decided it was time to head to bed. Although my friend’s relationship with his family was rather difficult, his dad allowed us to stay in his little garden shed somewhere in the suburbs.

As it is common in Germany, we rode the bus to our destination. The shed appeared to be located on a shared property owned by city folks who enjoyed having a space to grow veggies, plant flowers, and have BBQ’s during the summer. Each little shed had it’s own gardening area and was surrounded by a fence. As I made my way into the bed room, my friend tried to start a fire in the small fireplace in the hallway. It seems like I heard him say something along the line of: “Don’t you dare go to sleep before I get the fire going”, but I passed out as soon as my head hit the pillow.

Around 4:00 am I awoke and found myself cocooned in an incredible number of blankets. My friend was sound asleep next to me and it was obvious that he had failed at getting the fire going. Nevertheless, I was toasty warm and quite comfortable. I turned my head to see out of the window and faced one of the most beautiful scenes I had ever seen. The entire area was covered with thick white fog and the snow on the ground illuminated the garden. Trees, bushes, and every last blade of grass were coated with frost and was sparkling like diamonds. I felt the warm sensation of peacefulness fill my soul and, after scooting back into my cocoon, fell back asleep.

What´s for Dinner?

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Living outside comes with a variety of challenges, one of which is nutrition. Unless you own a camper, you will most likely not have access to a well- equipped kitchen. This guide is aimed towards individuals who have access to a non climate controlled environment for food storage (i.e. a vehicle).

The most important aspect to consider regarding eating well are storage, preparation of food, and a varied diet. For many without means to support themselves, obtaining food is the biggest problem. The issue of where to get food from to begin with, will be addressed in a separate post.

Storage

Depending on the season and your home base you will have to use different methods for storing your food. As a rule of thumb, if your food looks, smells, and/or tastes weird, don’t eat it. Trust your gut feeling!

– During the summer, vehicles and storage containers will heat up and greatly affect perishable food items. In order to keep the temperature down, try to park in the shade as much as possible and utilize sunshades. For my Ford Explorer I use one large foldy sunshade for the windshield and bought a set of oval sunshades for my back window. In addition, I try to crack a couple windows as often as possible. A crack the size of your key (flat side) is sufficient for letting out some of the hot air. Please consider your and your vehicles safety before cracking the windows for more than a few minutes or if you are planning on leaving the vehicle unattended.

– Store your food in a Tupperware or similar container. Don´t ask me how it works, but even on a hot day (90´s), you´ll be able to keep your food at room temperature (Yes, regular room temperature). Since my container has a see-through lid, I also cover it with a heavy wool blanket. This seems to help keep the food cool as well, plus prevents nosy passerbys from seeing what´s inside.

– During the winter, you may be confronted with solidly frozen food items and drinks. Again, insulation is the key! Store your items in a box and utilize blankets to cover said container. Water can be kept from freezing by storing it close you (e.g. in your sleeping back) during the night. Do not attempt to thaw already frozen water with your body heat. In most cases, the few drops of water you may gain are not worth you getting sick or freezing to death.

– Obviously you won´t be able to store just any food in your vehicle. Items such as fresh vegetables and fruits will go bad very quickly. I wouldn´t suggest storing them for more than a couple days during the summer season. Personally, I prefer buying these things shortly before I eat them. Canned food is one of the most ideal choices and offers a variety of nutritious options. I´ve left canned goods in my car for up to several months and other than a change in texture in some products (yeah, that broccoli-cheese soup looked very unappetizing), I haven’t noticed any difference whatsoever. My personal favorites are canned fruit (pineapple, pears, lichee, mango, etc.) and soups. Dried food such as instant oat meal, quick meals, and mashed potatoes will do just fine as well. Military MRE (Meal Ready-to-eat) work as well, but cost a little more. Still, it’s a good idea to have a few handy.

Keeping Healthy

In order to keep yourself healthy, I advice against eating fast food more than once a week. There are other ways of getting your daily meal without joining millions of overweight Americans.

– First of all, there is absolutely no need to eat a warm meal every single day. Most of us are getting more calories per day than we need to begin with. This phenomenon is fueled by the media telling us we need sausage burgers for breakfast and spam our televisions with soda products that have absolutely no nutritional value. How about a cheese sandwich with tomatoes and lettuce, a yogurt, some pineapple chunks, and a couple cookies for dessert? Not used to regular food from mother earth anymore? You better get used to it or the hobo lifestyle will wear you and your body down very quickly.

– Be sure you get your important Vitamins and eat enough of each food group. This website has a variety of useful information regarding nutrition and food. Personally, I prefer a vegetarian diet. This requires a bit more planning but is absolutely doable. If you´d like to know more about it, leave a comment or email me!

– Here are a few items that you can store in your vehicle longer and that will help keep you healthy. V8 vegetable juice (the fruit juice tastes good, but is in no way a healthy alternative to actual fruit), canned fruit (careful, canned fruit tends to have a lot of calories), canned veggies (watch out for sodium content), Pumpernickel (type of bread, very healthy, not for everyone though), raisins, mixed nuts (lots of protein, but also lots of calories), granola bars (again, calories), soups (tomato, potato, vegetable, noddle, etc.), apple sauce, etc.

Preparing a meal

– Preparing a warm meal can be a challenge. Backpack stoves such as this one are inexpensive, lightweight and work great to heat up canned soups and prepare small meals. Use a thermometer to keep an eye on the temperature! If your vehicle or storage container reaches temperatures over 120°F (48°C), your stove tank may combust. Gas leaks are also something to worry about. My vehicle´s inside temperature has not exceeded 90°F thus far.

– Personally, I prefer cooking over a camp fire. Obviously, you can´t light up a nice fire just anywhere, but if you are lucky enough to have a decent natural forest close by, a warm meal is within reach. Now, I always wanted to learn how to make a fire from scratch, but just haven´t gotten around to it. However, I´ve gotten good enough to light a fire in pretty much any type of weather. I´d suggest keeping a newspaper handy at all times (fits nicely into a backpack and can be educational depending on the newspaper). Here is a great link on how to build a decent fire. As always, drown your camp fires!

– If you happen to be employed and are lucky enough to have access to a break room equipped with a microwave, you´ll be able to feed yourself well whenever you are at work. Again, canned soups and just-add-water meals work great. You can also reheat leftovers that you may have grilled over a fire the day before. In addition, you can purchase frozen meals before work, and keep them in the freezer. Just make sure you don´t leave a mess!

– Sometimes there is just no way to get a warm meal. If it isn´t fast-food day, and you´ve already spend too many days without a ´real meal´, I´d suggest locating the nearest homeless shelter or church. Often times these organizations provide warm meals at least a few times per week. Next time you get a chance, donate a few bucks or some cans of food for their service (if you can).

Day 1

Unlike many homeless who just somehow end up on the streets, I had planned my upcoming move for months in advance. I researched camp grounds and parking sites, familiarized myself with the laws regarding the homeless (don´t get me started on that load of sh…), and created lists of supplies ranging from baby wipes to a portable camping stove. I´ve always had a passion for the outdoors and thus my move appeared to me like an extended camping trip. With tupperware full of neatly organized clothes, canned food, and hygiene items I began my adventure at a Walmart parking lot.

I will never forget my first night as a hobo. After circling the parking lot several times, and surely attracting the attention of every last person parked there, I decided on a spot that seemed the most ideal. I backed up into my spot of choice and simply sat there for a while observing the never ending stream of cars, busy shoppers, and overworked Walmart employees. Being new to the lifestyle, I assumed that I had to be practically invisible. Once I had covered my windshield using a sunshade, I climbed into the back of my SUV and began stacking my tupperware on one side and setting up my bed on the other. Although my windows are tinted and I soon covered them, I ducked for ever car that drove by.

After setting up my camp for the night, I got back into the front seat. I noticed a new vehicle a few spots next to mine and began looking for the driver. A man, probably in his late 40´s, was reorganizing his belongings and seemed blissfully unaware of my presence. With the bicycle strapped to the top of his Jeep, his clean and outdoorsy look, and the fact that the back of his vehicle was full of stuff, he appeared to me like a traveler. I imagined him traveling the country, enjoying his freedom with every breath of air, and not caring about society´s opinion regarding his lifestyle. Clearly, he had noticed me staring; he turned towards me, smiled, and waved. I waved back and was suddenly very busy rearranging my already perfectly organized supplies.

Although I did jump up for every last car passing by, I soon fell asleep in my incredibly comfortable  sleeping bag and dreamed of vast forests and mountains. I awoke a couple times and used my thirty seconds of consciousness to peek out of my windows making sure everything looked alright out there. At this point of the year, my hopes of warm spring nights had been massacred by three continuous weeks of rain. Bundled up in my sleeping bag, I managed to stay toasty warm despite the chill.

From what I had gathered during my research of “Walmart Parking” is that it is primarily a place to sleep. Hanging out on the property during the day is very much frowned upon and thus I decided to leave early in the morning. I woke up around 7 am and began my typical hygiene routine. Once I looked and felt like a human, I made my way to the building for some breakfast and a restroom run. Nothing seemed out of the ordinary and the Walmart employees treated me like any other customer.

Back in my vehicle, I enjoyed a good breakfast consisting of a bread roll, fruit, and a granola bar. My “neighbor” was in the process of storing his blanket and pillow in the back of his Jeep. In a few minutes of daydream, I imagined the places he would travel to next. Surely, he´d be seeing beautiful landmarks, meet the most interesting people, and enjoy days filled with unique experiences. Coincidentally we both got ready to leave around the same time. As I started my car, he drove past me. Before I could say “Bye, have a great life, be safe” in my mind, something on the back of his vehicle caught my eye. There were a bunch of card board signs taped to the back of his window. One read: “The Lord HATES Sinners”. What? All my preconceived ideas regarding his person crumbled and I thought to myself: “Oh great, he´s nuts”.