empty parking lot
Julie Hambleton
Julie Hambleton
February 5, 2021 ·  5 min read

Charity Transforms Empty Parking Lots Into Pop-Up Homeless Shelters At Night

No one ever chooses to be homeless. Mounting debt, illness, inability to find work, and many other problems can cause someone to end up on the street. A charity in Australia has found a way to address the shortage of shelters by turning parking garages into homeless shelters overnight. (1)

Australian Shelter Turns Parking Garages Into Homeless Shelters

One of the biggest problems facing the homeless is finding somewhere safe to sleep at night. Beddown, a charity organization in Brisbane, Australia, decided to tackle the problem using some very large spaces that go unused at nighttime. They are turning parking garages into homeless shelters. (1)

After looking into the homeless issue in Australia, Beddown founder Norman McGillivray realized that the situation was getting worse instead of improving. He wanted to help, but he did not want to simply replicate the other services that were already available. (2)

One day while at his local shopping center, he realized something: The parking garage was almost entirely empty. He knew right there that this could be an effective and efficient way to provide safe sleeping space for the homeless. (2)

He got Secure Parking, one of the largest carpark operators in the area, on board with the project, and they began creating nightly carpark homeless shelters. (2)

Carpark Homeless Shelters: Making Good Use of Unused Space

Many spaces throughout cities are used during the day but left empty at night. The goal of Beddown is to take these spaces and turn them into pop-up homeless shelters for people who would otherwise be sleeping on the street.

Beddown, however, is much more than just a bed and pillow. During their first trial, they had doctors, nurses, dentists, and hairdressers providing services to the guests. They also offered them new clothing and a place to clean themselves and really, allow them to feel human again. (3)

At Beddown, they believe that everyone has the right to a safe bed to sleep in at night, as well as the opportunity to turn their life around. (1)

Read: Next Stop for Retired School Buses: Tiny Houses for Homeless Families

The Truth About Homelessness

It is estimated that 2.5 to 3.5 million people sleep in homeless shelters, transitional housing, and public places not meant for human habitation each night. Though many believe that homeless people became that way through a combination of laziness and bad choices, this couldn’t be further from the truth. (4)

There are many reasons why someone might experience homelessness. These include:

1. Veterans

Army veterans account for more than ten percent of all homeless people in the United States. Lack of adequate services to help veterans transition from active duty to regular civilian life could be a reason. (4)

2. Domestic Violence Victims

Approximately fifteen percent of all homeless people in the United States are identified as survivors of domestic abuse. This is the leading cause of homelessness for women. (4)

3. Children Discharged From the Foster Care System

This group includes children who have aged out of the foster care system and those who left their placement because of a negative experience. Research shows that children who have gone through the welfare system are significantly more likely to experience homelessness. (5)

4. Former Inmates and Rehab Patients

Many people in this group have not completed high school or have a GED, so finding a job can be difficult. There is also a stigma surrounding former criminals and those with addictions, which prevents them from finding employment. This leaves them on the streets, where they are more likely to fall back into their old habits. (6) Simply having a home or homeless shelter can help avoid this.

5. Traumatic Events

A house fire, loss of a job, or a family dispute could lead someone to homelessness. Injuries that leave someone with physical disabilities may also make it difficult for someone to find a job, and therefore end up on the streets. (3)

Homeless People Face Many Challenges

Living in the streets, of course, is not easy. People experiencing homelessness face many environmental, economic, and social challenges that the rest of the population don’t have to deal with.

Survival Is Hard

There is no way to protect yourself from the freezing temperatures in the winter or even the summer heat without a home. Just simply surviving is a massive struggle, let alone trying to change your situation. (7)

Social Stigma

There is also a social stigma that comes with being homeless. They are often regarded as lazy or irresponsible and can sometimes be denied services because of their appearance. (7)

Sleep Deprivation

Sleep deprivation is another problem associated with homelessness. People who live on the streets are always at risk of having what few possessions they have stolen, and so don’t often get a full night’s rest.  (8)

These struggles can lead to depression, diabetes, hypertension, and memory loss, which plunges these people further into the endless cycle of poverty and homelessness. Sleeplessness amongst those who are experiencing homelessness has even been linked to psychosis. (8)

Beddown Homeless Shelters Are Making A Difference

Just by simply providing safe and clean homeless shelters to rest for the night, Beddown is already having a profound impact on the homeless population in Brisbane. Here is what some of the participants in the trial had to say:

“After spending the week here, having a good sleep at night and a routine, it reminded me of life, and I booked myself into rehab for 6 months” (9)

“It’s the first time I have had a dream in years,” while yet another simply said, “I don’t have to watch my back here.” (9)

“Being able to sleep all night and away from drugs, I’m clearer in the day and have not used drugs for 8 days.” (9)

McGillivray does not want Beddown to exist forever. He wants to eradicate homelessness in his country, and offering homeless shelters as a safe place to sleep is a stepping stone toward that goal. (1)

Keep Reading: German City Installs Pods For Homeless People To Sleep In


  1. Bed Down.
  2. Bed Down.
  3. Bed Down.
  5. Foster Care.” Homeless Hub.
  6. Corrections And Rehabilitation Programs.” Homeless Hub.
  8. Sleep Deprivation Impacts Individuals Experiencing Homelessness.” Join PDX. Sophie Jaggi. April 3, 2019.
  9. Charity Transforms Parking Garage Into Sleeping Quarters For Homeless At Night.” Inspire More. Corinne Sanders. November 21, 2019.