In 2015, nearly 60,000 refugees arrived in the Netherlands needing a place to live.

The Netherlands is a small country, just more than half the size of West Virginia, so housing all of them was going to be a challenge. As the worldwide refugee crisis continues, innovative solutions are needed so that the people fleeing civil war and sectarian violence have a safe place to live.

Refugees arriving in the Netherlands in January 2016. Photo by Arie Kievit/AFP/Getty Images.


In this case, the solution involved, in part, opening up an old abandoned prison as temporary public housing. It was a less-than-ideal situation to say the least.

The country was determined to do better.

In January 2016, the Netherlands launched a design competition called "A Home Away From Home" in which entrants were tasked with designing temporary housing for refugees and disaster victims.

All of the winning designs rethought the idea of public housing, adding amenities and innovations to make the buildings more like fully functioning homes than simply a bed to sleep on.

The winners of the contest recently appeared on display in Amsterdam as part of Dutch Design Week and included things like solar power, water purification systems, and ingenious use of space and material.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

This Farmyard shelter is designed to transform vacant farmland into mini villages.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

The cube design of the Farmland means dozens can be stacked, placed together, and moved easily. The architects of this design imagined the miniature villages establishing a "DIY economy" with local towns.

Interior of the design. Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

Another designer created these styrofoam towers as perfect low-waste housing for refugees being processed at reception sites.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

They're insulated, waterproof, fire resistant, and very cost-efficient. They have all the amenities of an apartment — beds, a sink, a toilet, a shower, and a kitchen table — and can easily be rigged up with electricity.

Comfort City is one designer's solution for cities that don't have enough space to house a large number of refugees.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

Every part of the Comfort City design is modular and adaptable, meaning it can be easily constructed in empty industrial buildings — or even abandoned prisons — while providing the homey comfort that abandoned prisons tend to lack.

Then there were designs like this modern Solar Cabin that can actually generate revenue and electricity.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

Its solar paneled roof actually generates more energy than is needed to power the home, so the occupants can sell electricity back to the local grid to make a profit.

Interior of the Solar Cabin design. Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

And finally, this sleek cube design actually comes with a built-in water purifier.

Photo courtesy of A Home Away From Home.

The cubes are Finch Evolutionary Wooden Buildings and are portable, easy to construct, and run on solar-powered batteries. They also have a vacuum toilet system that recycles water on site, making the whole thing self-sufficient.

We're going to need more and more of this type of housing and way of thinking about the refugee crisis.

Home is a concept many of us take for granted, but it's not a small thing. It makes us feel safe, comfortable, and human.

The current refugee crisis hasn't showed signs of slowing down, and with climate change creating more and more dangerous weather systems, we're likely to see climate refugee numbers grow sharply. All of those people are going to need places to live. Innovative solutions like these help them to not only live, but live with dignity and opportunity.

Moricz was banned from speaking up about LGBTQ topics. He found a brilliant workaround.

Senior class president Zander Moricz was given a fair warning: If he used his graduation speech to criticize the “Don’t Say Gay” law, then his microphone would be shut off immediately.

Moricz had been receiving a lot of attention for his LGBTQ activism prior to the ceremony. Moricz, an openly gay student at Pine View School for the Gifted in Florida, also organized student walkouts in protest and is the youngest public plaintiff in the state suing over the law formally known as the Parental Rights in Education law, which prohibits the discussion of sexual orientation or gender identity in grades K-3.

Though well beyond third grade, Moricz nevertheless was also banned from speaking up about the law, gender or sexuality. The 18-year-old tweeted, “I am the first openly-gay Class President in my school’s history–this censorship seems to show that they want me to be the last.”

However, during his speech, Moricz still delivered a powerful message about identity. Even if he did have to use a clever metaphor to do it.

Keep Reading Show less

Matthew McConaughey in 2019.

Oscar-winning actor Matthew McConaughey made a heartfelt plea for Americans to “do better” on Tuesday after a gunman murdered 19 children and 2 adults at Robb Elementary School in his hometown of Uvalde, Texas.

Uvalde is a small town of about 16,000 residents approximately 85 miles west of San Antonio. The actor grew up in Uvalde until he was 11 years old when his family moved to Longview, 430 miles away.

The suspected murderer, 18-year-old Salvador Ramos, was killed by law enforcement at the scene of the crime. Before the rampage, Ramos allegedly shot his grandmother after a disagreement.

“As you all are aware there was another mass shooting today, this time in my home town of Uvalde, Texas,” McConaughey wrote in a statement shared on Twitter. “Once again, we have tragically proven that we are failing to be responsible for the rights our freedoms grant us.”

Keep Reading Show less
Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

Keep Reading Show less