Pioneering pop up accommodation for rough sleepers which can help track they're still breathing is being trialled by the Salvation Army in York.
The so-called 'NAPpads' 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 have temporarily provided land for the scheme and support for those using the pads.
They're 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 sensors are based on technology used to combat sudden infant death syndrome.
Each NAPpad room is self-contained with toilet and wash facilities, a security door, window, power point, heater and LED light. The Salvation Army says that as well as protecting rough sleepers from a harsh winter on the streets, the pads offer a dignified and private space to sleep.
Malcolm Page, who's the assistant director of homelessness services at the Salvation Army tells Premier more about the sensors.
"It scans the inhabitant to monitor their heartbeat and respiratory rate and if that dips below a certain level or changes significantly, then it sets off an alarm. We can then alert the emergency services.
"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."
Rachael Maskell, MP for York Central, described the pads as an "innovative solution to provide dignity and independence in a safe environment for some of York's most vulnerable residents. 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 through referrals.