6 Reasons Cob Houses Could Shelter the Poor

1. Cob is one of the world’s most common building materials. It is similar to clay, but is a mixture of lumps of earth, sand, and straw. These materials are not difficult to obtain and are often incredibly cheap.

2. Because it does not use bricks, wooden structures, or particular forms, it is easy to shape. Historically, cob houses were shaped and mixed by people through shoveling and stomping, or by large animals, such as horses and oxen. There are many natural builders who consult and help train people to build with cob.

3. Cob houses are perfect for extreme conditions; they are cool in the summer and warm in the winter. They are ideal for places of either cold climates or desert conditions. They can absorb substantial amounts of rain without softening. Only when it is completely submerged with water will it become more likely that the home with erode with time. However, with a sturdy roof and thick walls, it will be nearly impossible to drench and destroy the house.

4. Using cob as a building material does not contribute to deforestation and pollution. By building homes out of cob, builders conserve and protect the environment.

5. Everyone appreciates the opportunity to add personal touches to their home. Cob houses can be easily and quickly painted with clays and natural dyes.

6. Cob houses stand the test of time. Some of the oldest enduring cob homes are in Devon, England and New Zealand. However, Africa, India, and the Middle East also have a long history of cob construction. One of the most notable is the Emara Palace in Najran, Saudi Arabia. In south Yemen, there is a cob city called Shibam. Near the border of Ghana, Africa, there are many towns filled with cob homes. If these buildings have lasted 100 plus years, cob houses are proof that we can shelter the poor in sturdy, protective, and lasting homes.

Kelsey Parrotte

Sources: Barefoot Builder, Cob Cottage Company, Devon Earth Buildings, Inspiration Green, Network Earth
Photo: Inspiration Green

Murder rates are much higher in large cities compared to in smaller towns. In general, violent crimes are more prevalent in heavily populated areas, in particular, impoverished urban communities.

In densely populated areas, crime rates can be influenced by the increase in peer contact. Individuals have more contact with one another, which allows for the potential for more crimes to be committed overall. An urban setting also entails more bars, convenience stores and other vulnerable businesses meaning there is an abundance of potential targets.

Statistically speaking, gender affects the number and types of crimes committed. On average, males commit more street crime than females due to the socialization to be aggressive and assertive. In addition, younger individuals commit at a disproportionate amount of street crime, in part because of peer influence as well as their lack of desire to conform.

The most targeted and vulnerable of the population is the poorest of the poor: the homeless. The abuse, death and crimes against this population is often undocumented.

In recent years, there has been an increase in the number of violent crimes committed against the homeless. “Bum fights” are a new phenomenon where people videotape their attacks against the homeless for entertainment. The more recent and violent attacks have gotten the attention of the United States Justice Department, which acknowledges not only that this a growing and serious national issues but is also a hate crime. However, the homeless are not considered to be a federally protected class.

Crimes committed against the homeless are brutal and violent and include but are not limited to drowning, burning, shooting and stabbing.

Factors that make the homeless more vulnerable includes a criminal’s lack of discrimination against their victim; in essence there is not a targeted victim. Given a lack of trust in the police on the part of the homeless, many of these crimes go unreported. Homeless individuals become easy targets. Environmental factors also impact a homeless individual’s vulnerability. No walls, locks or keys and a transient lifestyle increase the likelihood that a homeless person will be targeted and become a victim.

​Crimes that target the poor and homeless are a problem in the United States. Support for legislative change and policy updates that allow the homeless to be considered a protected class is the first step to help this population.

– Erika Wright

Sources: LardBucket, Common Dreams, Desert News
Photo: Flickr

There many conflicts, persecution, land grabs and disasters that take place across the worlds which cause people to relocate elsewhere. This is currently a worldwide problem with nearly every continent with displaced people of its own. The typhoon that hit the central Philippines is case and point where millions are homeless and displaced.

It means it is a problem that is beyond conflicts thus efforts to help as seen from the aid pouring into the Philippines is necessary. There is an estimated 35 million displaced people in the world. This is the entire population of Canada. In the last decade, while the number of refugees has been slowly declining, the number of displaced people has greatly increased. There are various reasons for this trend. This is due to lack of willingness to welcome refuges and costs of resettlements.

Displaced people are usually left with little means to sustain themselves. They are instead thrown into the unknown conundrum of poverty where survival is an ever present challenge. Internally Displaced Persons are persons or groups of persons who have been forced or obliged to flee or to leave their homes or places of habitual residence, in particular as a result of or in order to avoid the effects of armed conflict, situations of generalized violence, violations of human rights or natural or human-made disasters and who have not crossed an internationally recognized State border according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Throughout Somalia, an estimated 350,000 of the country’s 7,000,000 inhabitants are internally displaced persons who, as a result of protracted conflict, droughts and insecurity.

The majority of people who are displaced fall into one of two categories: refugees or internally displaced people (also called “IDPs”). Refugees are people who, in order to escape conflict or persecution, have fled across an international border. Internally displaced people chose to stay within their country.

Africa is home to more displaced people than all other continents put together. People fleeing from long-standing conflicts in Uganda, Sudan, the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo, and West Africa make for the majority of Africa’s displaced. The war in Colombia has forced out nearly three million people, and there are still tens of thousands of people displaced from the wars in the Balkans, even almost 10 years later. The United States has traditionally resettled more refugees each year than all other countries in the world combined. As a result of the program, American citizens themselves benefit enormously from the chance to learn from and work or go to school with people from all over the world, with vastly different life experiences – a key cornerstone of the American story.

— Alan Chanda

Sources: Internal Displacement Monitoring Center, Relief Web
Photo: Vintage 3D

London’s only free homeless shelter, appropriately named Shelter from the Storm, operates on donations alone with a team of volunteers and no money from the government. They provide access to rehab and detox programs as well as dinner and breakfast to 36 people every night of the year. Homelessness affects hundreds of thousands of people all over the world, for many reasons. Some are drug addicts, alcoholics, mentally ill or simply fell on hard times.

Some are running from bad family situations, human trafficking, or government oppression. Regardless of their circumstances, Shelter from the Storm accepts everyone and anyone in need. The shelter partners with Kids Company, New Horizon, The Red Cross, and The Metropolitan Police Trafficking Division.  These groups help the homeless find work and medical treatment so people can get back on their feet and become productive in society.

Many negative perceptions of homeless people exist in the minds of the general population, not just in London but everywhere. Descriptions like lazy, unintelligent, weak, and incapable are often used to describe the homeless without ever actually knowing anything about their lives or their histories.  Rosie Holtum is trying to change this perception.

A volunteer at Shelter from the Storm, Rosie Holtum is a young British photographer who was inspired to change the way people view the homeless. Her project involved taking striking black and white photos of homeless people she met at the shelter. The idea was to photograph them in the way they wanted others to perceive them and shatter all of the negative stereotypes surrounding people in their situation.

Creative and bold, the photos bring to life images of who these people want to become and can become with a little help from places like Shelter from the Storm. The images will resonate with a lot of people because they contrast so starkly with the ‘normal’ image of homeless people that most viewers have in their minds.

Reducing homelessness by helping those in need is something every nation should be focusing on and developing policies for. Breaking through stereotypes and shedding light on the truth of the ordeals that people live with every day is the first step to finding and implementing a solution.

The healthier the people of a nation are, the healthier that nation is as a whole. No group of people should be left behind or worse, left unsheltered and forgotten. Shelter for the Storm and Rosie Holtum’s photos bring that idea to life with her photo project, and everyone can open their eyes to see her point. Citizens can learn to help others in their own way, it does not matter how much money they have, artistic talent, or influence.

Kaitlin Sutherby

Sources: Huffington Post: Black and White Photos, Shelter from the Storm, Mungos
Photo: Wikimedia