Florence woman creates humanity pods for homeless community

Hampshire County

NORTHAMPTON, Mass. (WWLP) – Homelessness has been a growing issue since the pandemic started. 

More people are without homes and shelters are working to stop the virus from spreading. But one woman from Florence is offering her own solution. 

Melinda Shaw said when she was working at First Churches of Northampton, she was seeing houselessness in the height of the pandemic, that’s why she created Hope on Wheels, designing humanity pods that are lightweight enough to be carried on a bike. 

But offering more protection than a tent by having a solar panel on top for a light or to charge a phone and compartments for storage and a place to sleep. 

“And it will be lockable from the inside too,” Shaw added.  

Shaw said each one costs $500 to make and she was able to do so using online tutorials. 

She said they’re already starting to talk with officials in Northampton and Amherst to potentially allow for pods to be in public spaces overnight. 

“Our first choice is to hope that the city will lend a hand in this because it’s all of our problem,” said Shaw. “If not, then we’re going to ask homeowners. We’re going to see if we can get some folks to adopt a pod.” 

Hope on Wheels already has some teams working on a couple pods now. 

The goal is to make 20 this year. 

Shaw is operating out of her home workshop, “Anything I don’t know how to do, I’ll just google and figure it out. It’s very durable, it’s made with the same material as political signs.” 

Shaw said she wanted to put something together for homeless people who aren’t able to stay in the shelters. 

“I think any time that you’re giving something to someone having them participate in it gives them a sense of ownership,” Shaw said. 

She explained that the pods on their own won’t stop houselessness, but this can be an important part in taking on the growing problem 

“You know I’m just one person trying to stop the bleeding right now,” Shaw told 22News. “But this would give somebody a sense of some kind of home.” 

Now the question is where do these pods go? 

Shaw is already in talks with Northampton and Amherst to see what can be done. 

Here is more information if you’d like to donate or start your own building team.

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