Japanese hotel

Japanese hotel-inspired pods set to help tackle Brisbane’s homelessness crisis

A grassroots charity takes a Japanese hotel concept and turns it into a short-term shelter for the homeless.

For the past three years, Goodna Street Life in South West Brisbane has been developing and building accommodation pods in the hope of helping people in need of emergency shelter.

The group provides crisis accommodation in Helen’s Haven, but aims to match people with long-term housing.

Founder and chair Helen Youngberry said the severe lack of affordable housing has forced the charity to seek innovative alternatives to meet unprecedented demand.

The service hopes to speed up pod accommodation for the homeless.(Supplied: Goodna Street Life)

“At the back of our shelter we have built a terrace for the pods to sit on,” she told ABC Radio Brisbane.

“Each pod has its own USB charger, lights, windows, mattress and bed, all powered by solar energy.

“It’s like a small Japanese hotel.”

She said the pods allowed customers to have a closed door and privacy.

Lady lying on a bed inside a small pod with a sleeping bag.
Each pod has its own USB charger, bed and light.(Facebook: Goodna Street Life)

“For many they can’t just reintegrate into society, so it’s like a carrot to help them trust us.”

The group has six pods completed and eight nearing completion as part of the first stage and aims to find other locations to put the pods.

“Worst I’ve Seen”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic, the need for crisis accommodation has increased fivefold for the organization.

“It’s terrible, absolutely terrible,” Ms Youngberry said.

A recent Queensland Audit Office report on the Queensland Housing Department found that 31,000 households are on the social housing register, an increase of 78% since 2018.

“We get 15 calls a day ranging from what we call normal homeless people to families living in cars and elderly people who can no longer afford their rent,” Ms Youngberry said.

“It’s the worst I’ve seen and it didn’t just slip away. In the last 18 months it just knocked us out and caught us all off guard.”

Helen Youngberry at the Goodna Street Life store op
Goodna Street Life President Helen Youngberry hopes more modules will be built soon.(ABC News: Rachel Riga)

The group searched in all areas for additional accommodation.

“The problem we see is there’s nowhere to move them now,” Ms Youngberry said.

Support needed for more pods

It is hoped that local businesses will join us in sponsoring additional modules as the need for crisis housing increases.

“It gives us a way to show people what life is like for rough sleepers, but also a way for us to raise awareness as well,” Ms Youngberry said.

Man seated inside a small wooden structure.
Each pod was built by hand.(Facebook: Goodna Street Life)

The group recently took over Laurel’s Place, a former missionary property, and will use it to house families.

“We are now housing families there who have been displaced by the floods, the rental crisis, all the kit and caboodle,” Ms Youngberry said.

“Who with a conscience can leave a mum, dad and three children in a car?