Lifesaving ‘NAPpads’ Track Rough Sleepers’ Breathing Keeping Them Safe And Off The Streets

Innovative pop-up accommodation for rough sleepers that can track they are still breathing is being piloted by The Salvation Army in York.

The ‘NAPpad 20’ (Night-time Accommodation Project), uses microwave technology to ensure rough sleepers seeking shelter are safe. The pads have been designed by Protectal Ltd with The Salvation Army.

They provide temporary accommodation to help people who are finding it difficult to get off the streets and into accommodation. The pilot is also being supported by City of York Council who has temporarily provided land for the scheme and support for those using the Pads.

NAPpads are fitted with non-invasive ‘vital life signs’ sensors sensitive enough to detect whether someone has stopped breathing so emergency services can be alerted, giving responders vital minutes to save a life. The vytalsigns sensors are based on technology used to combat sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

Each NAPpad room is self-contained with toilet and wash facilities, a security door, window, power point, is lined with insulation panels and equipped with a small electric heater and LED light. Not only do they protect rough sleepers from a harsh winter on the streets, the pads offer a dignified and private space to sleep.

Malcolm Page, Salvation Army Assistant Director for Homelessness Services, said: “Sadly, most rough sleepers have multiple health problems as sleeping on the streets is dangerous and tough on the body so these Pads mean we can keep people safe as well as warm and dry. A key element in our ‘trauma-informed’ approach, they provide dignified sanctuary from the streets for people who may be suffering from mental health issues.

“People end up being forced to sleep rough for so many reasons which can include poor mental health, addiction, relationship breakdown, and job loss. Tackling homelessness is more than offering shelter, it is helping people to move on from the reasons they were forced to sleep on the streets in the first place.

The pads offer an informal setting to meet with our support team to explore more permanent housing and support options.

Former rough sleeper Jay, 19, said: “It would have made such a difference to me – to have a warm bed, a locked door, and safety. It would have meant not having to choose the street over a hostel.

“The technology to make sure you are safe is amazing. Knowing that it’s safe and if something goes wrong, someone is going to help you is a comfort. On the streets, if you can’t breathe nobody knows, nobody knows where you are and nobody can call for help. This will be life-saving.”

With energy-efficient heating and water system, once up and running, the NAPpad can keep someone safe using the same amount of energy per night as a domestic light bulb*. They can be moved to different locations to meet local needs.

Protectal Co-founder Pete Wood said: “It was vital that the pads offer dignity to occupants as well as helping manage potential risks to them. Potentially, many of the occupants will have been sleeping on the streets for some time and have poor health.

“Early deaths of people exposed to rough-sleeping are common. In residential accommodation, staff can monitor occupants and ensure they are safe. We wanted to offer the same level of care to those who would use the pods, even if only there for a night.

“We’ve worked with rough sleepers and sector professionals to get the design of the NAPpads right and ensure they are eco-friendly.”

NAPpads 2021, York. Picture by David Harrison.

Cllr Denise Craghill, the Executive Member for Housing and Safer Communities at the City of York Council, said: “We are always looking for innovative solutions to help support our most vulnerable residents, particularly during the winter. We are pleased to support this Salvation Army pilot project, which will add extra options to the services currently offered to rough sleepers and those in need of emergency accommodation.

“Our Winter Plan is designed to ensure that no one needs to sleep out in York as we are providing 27 extra beds in addition to the ones we already have in our hostels and temporary accommodation. The NAPpads will supplement them this winter with a further innovative option, particularly for people who are concerned about going into a hostel. The council offers support into a more stable, safer life to anyone sleeping rough and is committed to working with our partners to end rough sleeping.”

Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, described the NAPpad as an ‘innovative solution to provide dignity and independence in a safe environment for some of York’s most vulnerable residents’.

She said:

From monitoring someone’s vital signs to providing a safe, secure, and comfortable micro-flat for the night, someone without a home or means, can be guaranteed a safe, warm, and dry night.

The innovation, design, manufacture, and execution of this prototype unit, through a partnership of the Salvation Army and Protectal Ltd, just shows what can be achieved. In having the first NAPpad in the country in York, the spotlight will not only be on their success, but on how they move people from the streets to somewhere safe and warm.

The Salvation Army and Protectal Ltd are looking to roll NAPpads out more widely.

The NAPpads provide accommodation at the moment of need. Referrals can be made via the York EIP hub at 63 Lawrence Street between 10 am and noon Mondays to Fridays, or through referral agencies.

Written by: Harriet Whitehead

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