Clever Designs for Tomorrow’s Hobo Jungles

3 men in rough dress sitting beneath the Chicago elevated concrete supports
Three hobos, Chicago, 1929 photo by DN-0087599, Chicago Daily News negatives collection, Chicago Historical Society. is in the public domain
Text over picture reads: Hoboe's 'Jungle' Under Loop Street.

Does a spontaneous camp of the starving homeless profit from design or planning? There are architects who believe so.

Applying the thought to past hobo jungles of the Great Depression makes for unconvincing speculation.1 But then, most of us do not have the particular imagination skills of architects and/or urban planners.

The United Nations has recently reported that nearly 25% of the world’s population is now living in ad hoc informal communities such as refugee camps.

Meanwhile, the COVID-19 pandemic has focused the attention of both poor and rich countries on the importance of universal housing to everybody’s health. And yet, even in many of the world’s most advanced societies there is inconclusive evidence that any national housing gains that might be realized during a COVID-19 response will ultimately survive the moment.

Indeed, there is an almost universal disregard for the consequences of coronavirus-triggered evictions for the citizens of some wealthier countries, let alone the fate of migrants pounding at the gate, or the even more hopeless prospects of refugee hoards huddled in camps in other countries with little or no hope of relocation.

So while it may seem an affront to human morality to plan for “better” hobo jungles, it would seem to be prudent to listen to arguments that architectural design and planning might, while lending permanence to catastrophe, somehow improve the lot of those who struggle to survive in quasi-permanent, informal community settings.

Read more in ArchDaily: Social Housing and Settlements: Potential Promoters of Community Living


  1. For more information and pictures, visit this blog: Hobo Information