Phoenix City Council votes to transform shipping containers into shelters as way to combat homelessness

On Dec. 15, members of the Phoenix City Council approved a unique way to house the city's growing homeless population.

The plan involves turning dozens of shipping containers into livable homes for couples and families, and it is all part of a larger housing complex that will be built in the coming year.

"We need to try new things to address homelessness," said Craig Tribken, Director of Business Development for New Leaf.

The city will be partnering with Steel and Spark LLC to provide shelter units made of shipping containers for the city’s Office of Homeless Solutions. The total contract is around $3 million, and funding will come from the city’s allocation of the American Rescue Plan Act.

"They are really individual units with some sleeping space, shelving and a desk. They're not what we would call tiny homes. They really are a shelter," said Rachel Milne.

Steel and Spark is no stranger to transforming shipping containers into livable spaces. Their work can already be found around the Valley, with containers being transformed into bars, shops, and apartments.

The city’s version will be installed in conjunction with a planned congregate shelter that will house around 200 people. Each shelter unit will consist of four 40-foot pods that can sleep up to 20 people in a private space. 

There are also further plans.

"We are excited to provide many different options also at the site. We are looking to provide some RV spaces, spaces for pets. We are really trying to make it as open for anyone who needs shelter as possible," said Milne.

City officials say the units are sustainable and made of steel, which eliminates the need for maintenance. They are also built with life safety systems, and they also have centralized heat and air conditioning.

Organizations like New Leaf, who help provide resources to those experiencing homelessness, say this will be a huge help.

"Especially with something that is sort of experimental like this, it’s really great that the city is taking some leadership to try to find new ways to deal with this problem," said Tribken.

Officials hope to open the units in mid-2023.

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