Emergency housing

Friends from Australia have arrived in Örebro and have nowhere to live. They will be working with Operation Mercy for the next few years and would love to buy a little house out of town somewhere, but that is easier said than done. They have lived in a few different flats in the month since they arrived, and stayed with us for a week too. Operation Mercy does emergency relief as well as sustainable development around the world. Emergency housing is at present not one of their specialties!

In the news today is an article about an architectural company called Formens Hus in the village of Hällefors, about an hour’s drive from Örebro. The company recently went bankrupt which is a shame because one of the projects that they initiated some years ago was aimed at creating emergency housing for victims of disaster around the world. In a world where natural disasters and armed conflict mean that millions of people are displaced from their homes and end up living sometimes for years in refugee camps, the need for housing which is a little more substantial than plastic sheeting or tents is obvious. If a cheap, easily packed and transported, alternative could be developed, then it would make the life of these people easier.

I was excited to read that the IKEA stiftelsen (foundation) has agreed to a 5,5 million kronor rescue package for the emergency housing project. It was reassuring to hear that IKEA, the iconic producer of “flat-packed everything” has agreed to share some of its huge profits (the founder of IKEA is one of the world’s richest men) with a project which may relieve the suffering of the poor and needy. The dwelling to be developed will possibly be made of waterproof paper, with some kind of built in energy source, the possibility to store and purify drinking water, and a sanitation system. The initiative is being carried out in cooperation with the UN High Commission for Refugees, and has been conceived as a concept project for design students (see the website at www.emergencyhousing.se).

Unfortunately the product is not yet finished and so is not a solution for our Australian friends. And a paper house would need to be extremely water tolerant to survive in a climate like Sweden’s, even in the summer! So they are still on the hunt!

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