Honolulu has come under fire in the past year for inadequately addressing homelessness on the island of Oahu; with police officers citing the homeless for a variety of pedestrian violations, and at least one proposal from the city council that sought to relocate the homeless to a remote island away from tourists. But the City’s Executive Director of Housing, Jun Yang, had a different idea—to retrofit retired city buses as transitional housing for the homeless. Architecture firm Group 70 International picked up the design challenge, and hopes to have at least three volunteer-built LIFT bus facilities on the road this summer. The renovated buses will provide shelter, showers and recreation for some of Honolulu’s homeless population.
The LIFT buses themselves are still in good functioning order—they’ve simply been retired due to their advanced mileage and the City has agreed to donate around 70 of them to be converted into shelters. Unlike an RV, which is basically a house on wheels, each bus will be fitted out to serve a distinct purpose—some will have beds and screens to provide shelter, others will provide showers and basic hygiene facilities while a third design allows for recreational space. The layout of different buses have been utilized in different designs, and those with doors in both front and back can be divided in the center for privacy so as to house two families.
Group 70 International design principal May Ry Kim told Hawaii News Now that the design of the elegant spaces “is based on the premise that you could walk in to a hardware store, buy everything you need in one go and build everything with no trade skills,” and as such can be built by a team of untrained volunteers. With the buses secured, the design in place, and some monetary donations received, Group 70 is now looking for a non-profit to take on the implementation of the project—Habitat for Humanity has reportedly expressed interest—and they hope to have the first LIFT “bus shelters” in place in the coming months.