Digital billboards in Stockholm swap ads for homeless shelter info

The urban built environment isn't always accommodating to those who have nowhere else to go after the sun sets and temperatures plummet. Increasingly, urban design can be downright hostile to those sleeping on the streets.

This winter, however, the Swedish capital of Stockholm is offering a brilliant and big-hearted antidote to a sweep of anti-homeless "defensive design" tactics popping up in both European and American cities. To be clear, Stockholm isn't making special accommodations to those who find themselves hunkering down on park benches and on sidewalks — rough sleepers, as they're often referred. But it is transforming another ubiquitous street-side fixture, the digital billboard, into a helpful tool for getting city's homeless population indoors in frigid weather.

It's frequently the case that people sleeping on the streets have no idea where to go when temperatures become so cold that staying outdoors becomes life-threatening. Most are without cellphones and other devices that would help guide them to the nearest shelter with open beds. And they usually don't have advance warning of when dangerously cold conditions will set in and, as a result, are often caught by surprise and forced to brave the elements because they simply have no other choice.

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Victoria Krisman
Victoria Krisman is Interactive Media Specialist and Communications Manager for the Intelligent Community Forum.
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