Bristol community turns shipping containers into homes

Restaurant owner kick-starts project to refurbish shipping containers to provide accommodation for homeless people

A restaurant owner in Bristol was so frustrated at the number of people sleeping on the streets of his city, he launched a project to covert shipping containers into homes.

Jasper Thompson, owner of Jasper's Jamaican Diner, kick-started a drive among his friends, neighbours and patrons to furnish and decorate a second-hand container donated by a local shipping container business.

"You see a lot of guys sleeping in the freezing cold weather in winter, and I wanted to do something more than offer a cup of coffee," Thompson explained. “I just wanted to see if I could make a real difference in their housing situation.”

Thompson, 58, persuaded local tradesman to give up some of their spare time to installing the insulation, electrics and plumbing. Then others in the community rallied round to paint the place, and pay for the flooring, lights, furniture and bedding.

Thompson reckons the completed container home cost about £5,000 to put together.

And he now hopes to have 10 more containers converted in Bristol by the end of Autumn, provided he can persuade the local authority to find a site for the temporary homes.

At the moment, the bright yellow "show-home" container is sitting temporarily on an unused site on Malago Road in Bristol's Bedminster area, thanks to an agreement with the landowner.

Shipping containers are excellent way of doing low-cost housing

"We're working with the homelessness charities to make sure the homes would meet requirements, and we want to work with the council to make it all happen," said Thompson. “A lot of people think it’s a great idea, and I’m optimistic we can do a lot more.”

Thompson said more shipping containers are already on the way, with the Royal British Legion donating two containers, and a construction business in Maidstone donating two more.“

A second-hand container can be bought for around £1,500," he explained. "And now we've shown that it can be a good starting point for something liveable.”

"I'm not an architect, but I think shipping containers are excellent way of doing low-cost housing," he added. “It could be a really good solution. They’re durable and flexible too – you can cut the side off one and combine it with another to create a larger home.

“This could be a really good solution to homelessness – I don’t think the problem needs to be as difficult as it seems.

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The above article by Adam Forrest first published on in Jun, 2017.