Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Temporary Shelter

In theory, shelter isn't an absolute necessity. If the weather is nice, we could all sleep under the stars.

However, in bad conditions--when it is cold, in thunderstorms, or really bad hail, shelter could be life saving. Even when it is raining, it is a lot more comfortable to have some kind of shelter.

In this post, I am going to look at temporary shelters--shelter from the storm--as a basic necessity. In a future post I will look at permanent shelters, which supply security needs.

The simplest shelter is a cave--an opening in the rocks on the side of a hill or mountain. In a storm you could take shelter there--and hope that you were the only creature doing so.

The simplest human created temporary shelter is probably a makeshift tent. String a rope between two trees and sling a canvas over it. Tents can be more elaborate than that and have been used by nomadic peoples across the world. Three distinct temporary shelters beyond tents are yurts, tipis, and wigwams (also known as wikiups or bender tents).

Yurts are portable, circular structures used all over central Asia, from Mongolia to the Caspian Sea. Traditional yurts are made of a frame covered with felt. They can be packed up and transported and are moved anywhere from a few times a year to rather frequently. This is very different from the wooden yurt-like structures that are found around the US, which are basically built to stay in place.

Tipis are portable cone-like structures used by Natives of the North American Great Plains. They consist of a cover wrapped around a series of poles bound together at the top. Tipis sometimes include a smoke hole and flaps at the top and/or an inner lining. The chum from Siberia and the lavvu used by the Sami people are similar in design.

A third style of temporary housing used by nomadic peoples across the world is what is called a wigwam or wickiup by Native American peoples. The bender tent is a similar style of structure found in Saharan and sub-saharan Africa and used by Gypsies in Europe. All of these involve bent poles that are covered with brush, hides, cloth, or some type of tarp.

While North Americans tend to think of tents and other temporary shelters as recreational, for some people they are life saving. While I don't think that tent cities for the homeless are a solution to the housing crisis--closing them down (as some communities are trying to do) is adding insult to injury. Until permanent, affordable housing can be made available to everyone, often having your own tent is better than staying in a homeless shelter (if, indeed, there are even beds available). (I like the idea that homeless vets could be in a tent city tending vegetable crops while waiting for housing.)

Indeed, everyone needs and deserves permanent housing--but for sheer survival, temporary shelter can be an absolute necessity.

René K. Müller,'Simply Differently'--A website devoted to temporary buildings including tipis, yurts, and various types of 'domes'--with information on wigwams as well
David Pearson, Circle Houses--Lots of pictures of 'Yurts, Tipis, and Benders' with instructions on how to build them
Ted Rowlands and Wayne Drash, "Tents on wheels give homeless people roof and pride"--CNN story on a mobile structure called an EDAR (which stands for Everyone Deserves A Roof) created as temporary housing for the homeless
Kathy Sanborn, "Homeless in Tent City, USA"--Report on homeless encampments around the US, mostly in the western states

Quote of the Day: "Nomadic populations usually live in some of the most inhospitable and barren regions of the world and that is why they are nomads. ... Human inhabitants have little choice but to live off scarce resources. These are quickly exhausted, so soon it is time to move... People living in these conditions have to be remarkably ingenious and adaptable. This is shown in everything they do including the structures they build." - David Pearson

1 comment:

CrackerLilo said...

I find the whole concept of cracking down on the tent cities absolutely disgusting. What, now that this option's taken away, they're gonna find themselves a three-bedroom in the suburbs? Just because our politicians aren't willing to look a problem (quite literally) in the face doesn't mean it's over.

Thank you once again for this series. It expands my way of looking at things and makes me grateful for what I have. It make me want to share more, too.