We’ve all struggled to pack daily necessities in briefcases, backpacks, or purses for work or travel. Imagine having to transport all your possessions with you every single day? That’s the burden that homeless people face as they navigate their lives. Protecting their valuables is difficult, and until recently, there was no reasonable solution.
Just over a year ago, the City of Durango, Colorado, hired DeBourgh to build smart lockers for the homeless population at the Durango Transit Center. In February 2020, custom storage lockers were installed. In a stroke of luck, this was right before the start of Covid-19 restrictions and an unanticipated surge in homelessness. The project resulted from multiple community stakeholders coming together to solve issues arising from homelessness and share their resources. But the fuel that fired up the project was the data and insight collected from interviews with the unhoused population conducted by the nonprofit agency, NINA (Neighbors in Need Alliance).
Helping the Homeless Reintegrate into the Community
Per NINA, the inspiration for the survey came from a project in Lisbon, Portugal, in which volunteers had conversations with homeless people and gained a deeper understanding of the daily struggle to keep their personal belongings and valuables from being stolen. In this program, participants received access to a locker in exchange for agreeing to meet weekly with a social worker.
The result was overwhelmingly successful, with two-thirds of the locker users leaving the program voluntarily because they were able to find a job or housing and join a rehab or reintegration community.
Storage lockers for the unhoused and those in transition are part of a global trend of providing innovative non-residential solutions to the problem of homelessness—a problem that has only increased since the challenges of Covid-19 began.
Having a safe space to store belongings makes it easier for a homeless person to maintain a steady job and keep appointments in town. For participants who are working, it can be a secure place to store their valuable uniforms, boots, or tools. It also enables them to keep important documents, such as I.D. cards, birth certificates, and medical records, safe from theft and damage.
In the Durango program, participants are assigned their own smart locker for three months and share their lock PIN access with a NINA companion. This simple act establishes a relationship with a reliable person and a positive connection with a member of the community.
Storage Lockers Promote Dignity and Self-respect
One of the tenets of the City of Durango’s Strategic Implementation Plan for their unhoused population is to promote dignity and respect for all involved. Having a clean, safe, and private space to store one’s belongings is a cornerstone of self-esteem and pride.
A local architect, Carolyn Hunter, worked with the DeBourgh design team to create custom “false roofs” that would prevent lit cigarettes or any burning items from entering the locker space. Educating ourselves about the details and nuances of the environments our lockers reside in, and how they will be accessed and used by clients, is a critical component of our design process.
The Durango Strategic Plan on Homelessness aims to make homeless situations rare, brief, and one-time. We are humbled and honored to be a part of this worthy project and contributing to the pool of design and data information for the global community.
Contact us for more information on integrating personal smart lockers into your community’s design plans and find out about additional cost savings we can provide through our BuildADVANCE Program that leverages off-season pricing regardless of the actual date of construction. DeBourgh Manufacturing Co. offers different storage solutions, including electronic storage lockers, outdoor lockers, school lockers, police lockers, military lockers, and parcel delivery lockers.