Hidden Homeless: an ideas competition for homeless young people

This ideas competition, sponsored by New Horizons Youth Centre in London, challenges designers and architects to propose innovative approaches to decent housing for homeless young people in London.  The competition seeks proposals that are demonstrably durable, functional and serviceable, because there is potential to build the best designs on suitable sites.

Information on this web page

Responses to competitors' queries

About the project

  • The brief
  • The homeless shelter
  • Private uses
  • The competition site
  • The existing building
  • Any queries?

About the competition

  • Key dates
  • Competition deliverables
  • The Jury Panel
  • The judging process
  • Awards
  • The exhibition and announcement of the winners

Background information about homelessness

Please note: a pdf copy of all the information on this page can be found in the downloads section in the sidebar.

Responses to competitors' queries


There has been an amendment to the response given to Q1.12  from competitors, regarding the listing of the building.  See the document 'Hidden Homeless: Competitors' Queries' in the sidebar.


The document 'Hidden Homeless: Competitors' Queries' in the side bar has now been updated with all the competitors' queries.  No further queries will be accepted.


The available drawings have some conflicting scales. For the purpose of the competition please base your proposals on the following assumptions:

  • The Ground floor plan should be used to assess the scale of the existing buildings on site
  • The OS map should be used to understand the extent of the site boundary
  • The approximate existing building GIA is approximately 360 sqm on the ground floor and 300 sqm on the first floor
  • Building Layout – Ground Floor – w011/00-04s (Please use for scaling)
  • Building Layout - 1st Floor – W011/00-5s (Please scale in relation to ground floor plan)
  • York Road Disused Information Sheet (Additional Plans) – This is for reference only please ignore the scale


TfL has been able to source some additional plans of the competition site.  These can be downloaded from the sidebar on this website.


A pdf document entitled 'Hidden Homeless: Competitors' Queries' has been added to the sidebar on this webpage.  This document responds to all the queries received from competitors, as of today's date.


A clearer version of the first floor plan has been sourced - so the scale is now legible.  It can be downloaded from the sidebar on this webpage. 

The brief

The competition brief includes two key elements:

  • A homeless shelter for 16-21 year olds. 
  • A private use (cultural/commercial/residential) on the same site footprint.

Proposed designs should not hide the homeless. They should integrate accommodation for homeless young people with private sector housing or a commercial/cultural space.  Although this integration does not necessarily require the two different uses to be within a single building, the private/public, or private/charitable combination may be necessary to help fund the scheme; it is also an important requirement to ensure that those who have become homeless are recognised as an acceptable part of the community in which they live.

Participants are encouraged to think of innovative ways to implement complicated building typologies in the context of the site. 

There are a number of key brief considerations:

  • Social Responsibility - The dramatic rise in homelessness over the last 6 years is a direct result of the housing crisis. Society has a moral responsibility to tackle rough sleeping and not to turn a blind eye.  This competition aims to tackle this issue head on and create a sustainable solution that could be replicated across a number of sites.
  • Co-Living - This is a fantastic opportunity to create a sustainable scheme that provides a unique offer for different user groups.  For instance, homeless residents could be financially supported by the private users who in turn will feel socially gratified to give back to the community.  Proposals should be informed by, and advertise this collective endeavour.
  • Planning Policy - As the homeless shelter will be defined as ‘temporary living accommodation’ there is an opportunity to deviate from standardised housing policy (in the same way that student hostel accommodation is provided in much smaller units than could be the case for regular C3 residential accommodation).
  • Community Issues - Homeless housing is often unwelcomed by local residents, and can lead to animosity in communities. Design proposals must balance providing privacy for all residents with the need to create a scheme that encourages community spirit.
  • Security - Research has shown that four in ten rough sleepers have had mental health problems, often needing help with alcohol dependency and drug abuse.  For this reason, creating a safe and secure environment is critical.
  • The Site Value - The value of the private use on the site will need to be factored into the design proposals.  Innovative design solutions should be considered to help preserve land values for this hybrid scheme.
  • Viability - The shelter will require an ongoing means of economic support to ensure its own financial viability.  Designs should provide a proposal for a revenue stream for the charity.  This might be in the form of regular accommodation, short term lets, a more commercial facility, or an events space.

The homeless shelter

In order to provide shelter for 28 young homeless people the project will require 560 sqm NIA of space which will comprise the following spaces:

Short stay emergency accommodation (280 sqm) 

This space will be provided to residents for a maximum of 28 days and must be designed as a temporary living space for young vulnerable homeless people.  The accommodation will provide a space to sleep, store clothes and wash whilst receiving psychological help from the charity in an emergency situation.  The dormitories and associated facilities must be separated between male and female.  Each dormitory must provide a shared bedroom and shared bathroom facility as well as storage lockers.

  • 1 ten person male dormitory - 120 sqm
  • 1 support facility for the male dormitory to include showers and toilets - 20 sqm
  • 1 ten person female dormitory - 120 sq
  • 1 support facility for the female dormitory to include showers and toilets - 20 sqm

Medium stay accommodation (160 sqm) 

These spaces will be provided for a maximum of three months and must be designed as shared living accommodation in the form of a flat.  Each flat must provide private rooms and bathrooms with a shared kitchen area for up to four people.

  • 1 female housing unit to provide a 4 bedroom flat - approximately 80 sqm
  • 1 male housing unit to provide a 4 bedroom flat - approximately 80 sqm

Support Facilities (120 sqm)

  • 1 bedroom for the homeless site operative - this should be approximately 20 sqm
  • 1 private homeless communal space to include clothes washing facilities - 20 sqm
  • 1 four bedroom flat for private rental with dedicated separate entrance at 80 sqm

Please note:

  • There must be clear separation between male and female sleeping areas
  • There must be a clear separation between short and medium stay accommodation
  • The site must provide shared amenity space, clothes washing and drying facilities, controlled access, storage for linen and bedding as well as a shared kitchen for staff and residents
  • There must be a secure storage facility for residents' belongings
  • There must be a provision for a staff flat to manage the building. This must also provide sleeping facilities for staff
  • The facility must be designed to be respectful to its neighbours
  • It is envisioned that the majority of support and training will continue to operate from New Horizons headquarters
  • As well as providing a homeless shelter, the design proposals should provide an ongoing revenue stream for the homeless charity. The brief above suggests a rentable flat but alternative uses may be suggested.
  • A possible source of revenue should be included as part of the competition entry within the context of the shelter’s financial viability strategy. This might be in the form of residential accommodation, an events space, retail space, commercial space, astart-up space, catering or food and beverage offers or workshops.

Private uses

Proposals must incorporate an independent development opportunity on the site which can co-exist with the homeless shelter.  The proposed scheme must provide a truly integrated solution that offers both user groups privacy but also create shared community spaces for all user groups. Proposals must respect and protect the vulnerable homeless users whilst safeguarding the value of the private component.

This brief suggests two options for the private component; competitors should select one or other option.  

Option A: Commercial/cultural uses

In addition to the homeless shelter requirements, Option A asks designers provide a commercial or cultural space of approximately 560 sqm, with its own dedicated entrance.

Option B: Residential accommodation

In addition to the homeless shelter requirements, Option B asks designers provide a residential accommodation of approximately 560 sqm, with its own dedicated entrance.

Proposals might consider:

  • Working within the fabric of the existing building
  • Adding height to the existing building (over-site development)
  • Creating low level extensions to the existing building within the site boundary
  • Creating shared or individual community / amenity space for the scheme

The competition site

For the purpose of this competition, a site has been identified to enable competitors to demonstrate how their ideas might work on a constricted urban site in London.

Please remember that this is an ideas competition, and while it is hoped that the winning ideas can be turned into a real project, this is not a competition for a live project; it is not necessarily the intention to build the winning scheme on this site.

The site is located within the disused York Road Underground Station on York Road, a ten minute commute to New Horizon Youth Centre.  

Proposals will need to take into account the grade 2 listed status of the building as well as the immediate and wider site context, but but should not be constrained by this.

Whilst competitors are welcome to visit the site, access into the building will not be available.

The existing building

The ground floor of the existing building comprises approximately 420 sqm of NIA.

It was originally designed as a railway station and is currently redundant.  It is a steel framed two storey building constructed in the 1930’s.  The building was last used as office accommodation, with separate access to the disused underground platforms at the rear of the building.  The building seems to span the large penetrations to the tube below.  The facade is a stone faience cladding with decorative terracotta colour.  The original steel framed windows have been removed on the ground floor and replaced by partial blockwork infill and temporary doors and openings.  The interior of the building has very little of the original historic fabric remaining.  However there are remnants of the historic plaster mouldings within some of the plant and void spaces above the service ceiling void.  The services in the building require major overhaul.  The following systems are out of date and not meeting current standards and will need upgrading:

  • Electrical distribution
  • Heating cooling
  • Lighting distribution
  • Fire and security

Please note: a pdf copy of the Ground Floor and First Floor Plans can be found in the downloads section in the sidebar.

Any queries?

All queries about the competition brief and/or the competition itself, should be emailed to homeless@colander.co.uk by 29 June at the latest.  All responses will be posted on this website.

Key dates

08.06.18   Competition launch

29.06.18   Closing date for queries

31.07.18   Submission deadline

28.09.18   Public exhibition (winners announced)

Competition deliverables

All entries should be submitted digitally no later than 31st July 2018 (23.59 hours UK time), to homeless@colander.co.uk.  Please send all attachments by a WeTransfer link or similar: 


 Competitors should note that hard copy submissions are not required and should not be sent.

The project submission must contain the following files:

  • Two landscape A1 boards with the project information including plans, sections and perspectives.  Participants are encouraged to submit all the information they consider necessary to explain their proposal but this must be contained within the two A1 boards.
  • 1 project statement (600 works max)
  • 1 financial plan for income generation (200 words max)
  • 1 entry form containing:
    • Name of the lead organisation or person, with contact details 
    • Others in the team (if relevant) including their professions and the team structure

The Jury Panel

Jon Snow, Patron of New Horizon Youth Centre and Chair of the Jury Panel

Shelagh O’Connor, former CEO of New Horizon Youth Centre

James Murray, Deputy Mayor, Housing and Residential Development, GLA

Marc Vlessing, CEO Pocket Living

Robert Woodman, Board Director, DP9

Chris Kane, Chris Kane Associates

Helen Evans, Chief Executive, Network Homes

John McAslan, Executive Chairman John McAslan + Partners

Heather Macey, Associate, John McAslan + Partners

Poppy Noor, Freelance journalist

Colander will be in attendance.

The judging process

The jury will assess the submissions and identify 12 finalists from which they will identify three winners.

The judges will take the following issues into consideration when making their selection

Problem definition

  • Does the team have a clear understanding of the constraints and opportunities associated with this challenge

Design solution

  • Has the team clearly defined an architectural solution? 
  • Is the solution distinctive or fundamentally different from existing approaches? 
  • Could the solution viably be implemented and sustained in the real world? 
  • Would the solution inspire people to support it? 

Potential for social impact 

  • Do the proposals clearly understand and address societal issues? 
  • Does the solution demonstrate the potential to make life better for the target population(s)?
  • Do the proposals raise social awareness and encourage engagement with the target populations? 


  • Has the team developed a plan for the economic sustainability of its proposal? For this competition, this means the ability to continually generate revenue to sustain the operations of the team’s design. 

The team 

  • Does the team include the diversity of expertise necessary to accomplish its goals? 
  • Is the team passionate? 
  • Has the team engaged a strong group of advisors and/or partners?


The 12 finalists selected by the jury will be invited to exhibit their proposals in a public exhibition at John McAslan + Partners’ offices in Euston, London.  See image below.

The three winning teams will receive a monetary prize as follows:

1st place: £3,500

2nd place: £1,000

3rd place: £500

The exhibition and announcement of the winners

All teams selected for the public exhibition will be contacted by email on 17th September 2018.  Each selected team will need to provide its submission mounted on A1 board to:

John McAslan + Partners
7-9 William Road
London NW1 3ER

by 17.00 on 26th September 2018. 

There will be an opening event on the evening of 28th September 2018, to which all competitors will be invited, along with a number of influential people from the sector and the press. 

The jury will introduce the charity, announce the names of the winning teams and present the competition winners with their awards.

Competitors should note that the names of the winners will only be revealed at the opening event.  No prior notice will be given to the teams

The exhibition will open to the public on 29th September.

Background information on homelessness

Homelessness is rising and is visible on streets and towns throughout Britain. The high cost of housing and shortage of affordable housing in London means that homelessness is a particular problem in the city.  Street homelessness is visible but Shelter estimate that, as of April 2017, while 4,500 people were sleeping rough in Britain, more than 300,000 were in hostels, temporary shelters or unsuitable and overcrowded accommodation.

Young people are the hidden face of homelessness as they are often ‘sofa surfing’ or sleeping on buses, in transient housing or shelters.  Within this context, a number of organisations are doing important work supporting homeless young people but are finding it extremely difficult to source suitable short term accommodation where people are supported and safe while they receive help with long term solutions.

“Housing benefit cuts, insufficient supply of affordable housing, and cuts in council funding and mental health services have all left vulnerable people with nowhere to go. This new competition encourages designers and architects to tackle these urgent issues head-on.” 

— Jon Snow, Chair of the Jury Panel and Patron of New Horizon Youth Centre,

It is significant that the London Plan’s Adopted Policy (2016) 3.1 is headed: ‘Ensuring equal life chances for all’.  

It states that: “Meeting the needs of particular groups and communities is key to tackling the huge issue of inequality across London”.  It also states that development proposals should “protect and enhance” facilities that support the needs of particular groups and communities.

In addition to this, the new Draft London Plan Policy (2018) H14 says that: “The delivery, retention and refurbishment of supported and specialised housing which meets an identified need should be supported. The form this takes will vary, and it should be designed to satisfy the requirements of the specific use or group it is intended for..(such) accommodation could include: move-on accommodation for people leaving hostels, refuges and other supported housing, to enable them to live independently;... accommodation for rough sleepers...”

The Draft emphasises that “Boroughs should undertake assessments of the short term and long term needs for supported and specialised accommodation within their borough”. And should “..use this information to plan to meet identified need, working with relevant authorities, such as children’s and adult services, the NHS and relevant charities.”

“Almost half of rough sleepers have mental health problems, 41% need help with alcohol dependency and 31% with drug abuse - creating a safe and secure environment is therefore critical. 220,000 people across London are forced to stay in insecure or unsafe places because they have nowhere else to go. This competition focuses specifically on short and medium-term accommodation where these vulnerable people can safely stay while seeking longer-term solutions.”

— James Murray, Deputy Mayor, Housing and Residential Development, GLA

So, this is the context for the Hidden Homeless initiative headed by London’s New Horizon Youth Centre (NHYC), a highly regarded day centre for young vulnerable homeless people based in the London Borough of Camden.

Society has a responsibility to address the growing homeless crisis. The current situation is unethical, unacceptable and unnecessary and must be addressed immediately. This competition focuses on the young homeless to address the problem at its roots. Those who fall on hard times and find themselves without a home deserve more than just temporary solutions or kind words. They deserve real help that gets them back on their feet.

“One of the biggest challenges in finding sites and planning support will be that policy makers are so highly focused on creating new, permanent affordable housing schemes. Consequently, more specialist types of affordable housing seem to attract less priority than they deserve. Policy support which does exist is to be found in the Mayor’s Housing objective to Ensure Equal Life Chances For All (3.1 of the London Plan). This encourages Boroughs to “identify significant clusters of specific groups (such as those who experience particular disadvantage and social exclusion) and consider whether appropriate provision should be made”.”

— Bob Woodman, DP9, Planning Consultants