Advert hoarding which doubles as a homeless shelter created in York

Trying out the prototype Ad Shack, an A-board advert which doubles as a bed for someone homeless
1 May 2015 @ 9.38 pm
| Opinion
Geoff Beacon fears there will be a leap in the number of homeless people in the next few years. Here’s why – and his invention which might help those hardest hit

There may be many more homeless in the next few years. There are three possible causes.

1. We have borrowed on our houses but can’t afford to stop spending

We have borrowed large amounts using our homes as security. We have spent our way to growth. That has worked recently but if we stop spending,the economy will shrink, jobs will be lost and homes repossessed.

In an article in the Telegraph, Household debt is Britain’s hidden timebomb, Jeremy Warner writes

Two main and quite alarming conclusions can be drawn from all this. One is that the UK – and perhaps other post-industrial economies – is finding it difficult to grow without relatively high levels of house price inflation, and corresponding increases in household indebtedness.

Stopping borrowing on our houses means an economic recession, lost jobs and homeless people. The Bank of England also worry:

The recovery in property prices in the United Kingdom and many advanced economies has occurred against the backdrop of a relatively prolonged period of low interest rates globally…

In the household sector, housing wealth makes up half of total gross wealth and mortgage debt accounts for three quarters of borrowing.

If interest rates go up we will have more repossessions and more homeless people.

2. A world economic slowdown

The Chinese rate of growth has fallen. Already the economies of Australia and Canada are feeling the effects.

In China slowdown to leave Australia in ‘dire’ fiscal position Stephen Letts writes:

A breakdown of the recent GDP figures put out by China’s National Bureau of Statistics gives a pretty clear indication of how fast things are unravelling.

  • Industrial production dropped to a post GFC low driven by a sharp contraction in export growth and weaker domestic conditions.
  • Electricity production shrank by 3.7 per cent.
  • Cement production was down 20 per cent year-on-year as residential property investment continued its rapid deceleration.

Fixed asset investment was also substantially slower.

And now the Wall Street Journal reports U.S. Economic Growth Nearly Stalls Out.

A world-wide recession would mean jobs will be lost jobs, homes repossessed and more homeless people.

3. Cuts in benefits

There will be large cuts in benefits for the lower paid under the new Universal Credit regime should the Conservatives form the next government.

This will particularly hit the low earning self-employed. In Why the self-employed need to wake up to the threat posed by Universal Credit, Benedict Dellot writes:

All of this presents a major headache for the self-employed. Indeed, it is highly likely that many will be pushed out of business directly because of the implementation of Universal Credit…

Jonny Void describes the low paid self-employed:

Millions of people are now scraping an income as self-employed workers. 

Whether being shafted by online micro jobs that pay 50p for an hour’s work, or working on building sites and forced to register as self-employed to save their employer money, a casualised, insecure and poverty paid working life is the reality of modern capitalism for many.

Making workers pay explains that women will be hit hardest.

The self employed, particularly women, will be hit the hardest, who, if they fail the ‘gainful self employment’ test, may be not be allowed continue their business. Instead, they must sign up to Jobseekers and look for employment under new UC rules.

Universal Credit has also developed new policies and procedures to protect the taxpayer from those who declare themselves self employed, yet whose businesses routinely generate little income.

We think these impoverished self-employed will become homeless and become a significant market for the product we are developing, the Ad Shack because we judge that these cuts in benefits will cause more homeless people.

The Ad Shack business plan

Another view of the A-board hoarding with built-in bed
Another view of the A-board hoarding with built-in bed

We aim to provide means of shelter and source of income for destitute people. It’s the Ad Shack, a moveable advertising hoarding that also doubles as a rudimentary shelter.

The earning power of advertising is bigger than most people realise. Bicycle towed advertising bill-boards like the one shown can be charged out for over £250 per day in York.

The Ad Shack will give homeless people a way of earning a living by showing adverts on the sides of their shacks and pushing them round town. It also doubles for a place to sleep.

We have made a first prototype which took under two hours to manufacture. We can already see improvements and extensions to the design.

We aim at an initial price of £100 for a “bare bones” model to prime the market.

Potential advertisers can contact us at [email protected].

Best place to sleep

The Ad Shack at St George's Fields car park
The Ad Shack at St George’s Fields car park

In York probably the best place to park an Ad Shack is the car park on St George’s Field near the new 40p-a-time public toilets.

For 40p it’s possible to spend up to 15 minutes in the large cubicles. Perhaps time for a quick – but uncomfortable – wash but bring your own bowl and towel.

One advantage of this car park is that it is overlooked by CCTV that can be monitored by the police in York because homeless people must be protected from drunks and vandalism.

To eke out their existence the Ad Shackers might call in at Waitrose about 8pm to get cheap good quality bread or go to the Morrisons in Spurriergate after 9pm to get very cheap end-of-day items. Although, the number of future homeless people may overwhelm these sources.

Hopes for the Ad Shack concept are raised by the success of the Big Issue. Perhaps some of those enterprising self employed people whose businesses may be forced out of business by changes to the benefits system will take up the challenge.