Our Need for Shelter

Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized, renamed,...
Maslow's hierarchy of needs. Resized, renamed, and cropped version of File:Mazlow's Hierarchy of Needs.svg. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Shelter is one of our basic needs: it is a place that can protect us from the elements, keep us warm and safe, and give us the encouragement to satisfy our other needs. According to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs, shelter is one of the requirements for addressing our physiological needs (along with the need  food, water, air, sleep, sex). Maslow represented the human’s physiological needs as the base of a triangle to show that meeting these needs are the most important in our lives. If these needs are not met, the individual may only be able to focus on meeting their physiological needs and not feel motivated to move towards self-actualization.

Luxembourg mansion
Luxembourg mansion (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Man’s shelters, though, come in many different forms depending on a person’s social status or circumstances. The wealthy provide many bedroomed mansions for themselves and their family. The rooms are richly decorated and the spaces within are light, large and airy. The occupants do not worry about running water, or warmth on cold winter days. Everyday they are able to concentrate on other activities besides the daily need to feed themselves, or the worry whether they may lose their shelter at any moment.

A shanty town in Soweto, South Africa.
A shanty town in Soweto, South Africa. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

On the other end of the scale are the shacks found in squatter camps and shanty towns: pieces of corrugated iron are placed together to form a shelter that houses a group of people. Running water is unavailable so, even though their need for shelter has been met, the occupants of squatter camps need to concern themselves everyday on where to find water to drink, cook, and wash. Speak to an occupant of one of these shanty towns and you will hear they are concerned, not only of being removed from their space, but also of other occupants in the town coming to steal their meagre possessions.

An apartment building in Paris
An apartment building in Paris (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Many of us live in apartment buildings or in three bedroomed houses. We work to pay the rent or mortgage to ensure that we have a roof over our heads so that we do not have to worry about the elements or losing our space (unless we lose our ability to receive a pay check every month). With our physiological needs having been met, we can then focus on our need for safety, belonging, and self-esteem. Eventually attaining our need for self-actualization.

We often change the shelter in which we live. We leave home once we are of age and set up our own space. We marry and have children, thus requiring a larger space for the added members of our family. There comes a time in our lives when we downsize and no longer need so many rooms and spaces in which to live. But no matter what time in our lives we are, we all search for a shelter to call our own.

What shelter do you currently occupy? Are you looking at changing your shelter soon for another?

(Join Jake every week for a theme for creative inspiration. This week’s prompt is “shelter”)

© Colline Kook-Chun, 2012

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90 thoughts on “Our Need for Shelter

  1. Hello Colline!
    I love this blog and the connection to Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs!!! I was always much more interested in Sociology as an explanation for all that I needed to understand in terms of inequality in society, but in Psychology class, I could really see how Maslow’s Hierarchy explained the reasons why people do what they do. When your concern is for basic needs, you don’t have the motivation to pursue higher education that would get you to a better place in society and get you the basics to survive. Additionally, if you are just trying to hold on to what you have, that takes a lot of energy each day. Looking for potable water and walking miles for it would be an effort in itself. Without water, you do not live long – more important than advancement!!

    Thank you, Colline for this very important post. I see beauty in the shanty town picture – it has a certain artful quality. When I visited Panama City, Panama, the Panamanians were shocked that I wanted to visit Casco Viejo (the old city). They said they needed to go with me because it was extremely dangerous. They accompanied me and I photographed the most beautiful pictures there, some of which hang on my walls, framed. Later the Panamanians said they couldn’t believe how beautiful the pictures looked and that the pictures made the area appear beautiful! I think that the Panamanians had a pre-conceived idea of beauty in their minds due to the crime and and danger there. Once the danger, was removed, the beauty shone through – another example of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs – increase safety, see beauty!!!

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    1. Many of the people who live in these shanty towns are ordinary people just like you and me. They love their families, they work, they wish for a better life. Just like us, they feel hunger too – which at times results in theft and crime. I wonder sometimes if governments worked seriously on addressing people’s physiological needs, as well as their need for security, whether poverty would die a slow death.

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  2. Hi Colline, great thoughtful post. There is much to be learned from the vernacular. There is beauty all around. I design ‘shelters’ and the study into the simple structures is such a learning experience. A lot of culture, history and socioeconomic considerations.

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    1. I know someone who is involved in creating a community from old train containers. Such a simple structure which is now being recycled for homes and stores. This type of shelter is surely a step up from the shanties that so many are forced to live in because of their socio-economic status.

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  3. Thank you so much, Colline, for the great photos…what a wide disparity there is in how people live…and I’m sure those in the shanties are thankful they have some type of roof over their heads…as many in the world are without even that. 😦

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    1. The squatter camps in places like Soweto show how resourceful people can be. They have moved into unused open land and searched for anything that can be used to build a shelter: corrugated iron, bricks, anything that can be used to create a space for themselves. Sometimes these squatter camps are razed by the government – but they go out and search for another area in which they can create a home.

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  4. Hi,
    What a wonderful post. It is amazing all the different types of homes that people live in all over the world, and each and every one different in its own way as people put their own personalities into the place they call home.
    A lovely read.

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    1. You have such wonderful visitors and are surrounded by nature and I live there vicariously through your blog.I would never want to leave your shelter either! 🙂

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  5. I think losing ones home would be one of the scariest things in the world, not to have somewhere to live. We depend on that postal address for everything, can’t get anything without it. I like the way you have talked about the different types of shelters. It is strange that our indigineous population, before white settlement, didn’t really have homes. Being nomads they moved constantly in search of food. Strange life, they had some things to shelter against the elements.
    Great post Colline.

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    1. In a way their tents were their shelters weren’t they? And their homes. I am sure they had certain momentoes which they moved with them from place to place – though not as many as we tend to gather because we do not have to continuously pack them up.

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      1. The would have pieces of bark or stuff like that, but they lived a very basic life, there sole thing seemed to be to find food. They only had what they could carry. In northern Australia they wouldn’t have needed shelter, or clothes, they didn’t wear clothes, except some furs when it was cold. It is really different to the life we lead. Of course, they don’t live like that now, we ruined that for them.

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        1. Part of civilisation I think. If one looks back on European history, shelters also used to be rudimentary. The development of agriculture and the industrial revolution had a big part to play, I think, in changing the lives of people – as well as the way in which they shelter themselves. It definately stripped away the nomadic way of life.

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    1. Thank you Nia. When I saw Jake’s prompt for this week I immediately thought of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and how each person adresses this need according to their socio-economic status.

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  6. Oh you covered this subject so well. Shelter is important in more than the sticks and stones it is made of. I like to think that the house we live in has a soul just like we do & we should cherish that piece of our lives. Yes – Jake picked a very deep subject this time and we all rose to the occassion. r

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    1. Our shelters do become a part of us – think of the way we set up the interior and make it our own. I know that I enjoy Jake’s challenges every week; as well as reading every one’s entries.

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  7. Full of wonderful insights on shelter. I remember Maslow’s heirarchy of needs way back during my college nursing years. It’s sad though that not everyone gets the chance to fully enjoy these needs. Thanks for sharing my friend.

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  8. When I think of shelter, homelessness comes to mind… The homeless can’t choose their abode… and sometimes I think, there but for the grace of God goes any one of us. I’m grateful for my shelter

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  9. Jake has inspired many top posts. I enjoyed visiting all five. Your writing invokes thought and reflection, as well as the accompanying photographs to illustrate the topic.

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    1. Thank you for your compliment Ruth. And just as I enjoy writing my posts, I also enjoy visiting others’ responses to prompts given by people such as Jake.

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  10. Maslow’s ranking pyramid of needs was always in my mind since decades, and it influenced the decisions for the lifestyle we’ve chosen. To own a house, waste money with tourism: never our goal. A simple apartment, healthy food – and much time for writing, reading, discussions. We put our money into the communication sector, had our focus to the top of the pyramid, because we were not fenced in by some bad illness, cancer for example, friends died – we still are living – what more?

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    1. As you say, there is no need to be living in something that is too big – and that causes stresses in your life. I am always grateful that the shelter I live in has always addressed my needs: the roof does not leak, I need not be afraid that the wind will tear my flimsy roof away, that I have easy access to things many take for granted (water, food, a warm bed to sleep in).

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  11. Excellent article, Colline. As IT has said not everyone gets the chance to meet these needs. My shelter is on the 6th floor in a building of 8. There is noise coming from the apartment on the left, downstairs and especially from the one above. There was a time when I found this shelter of mine very insecure – during the war when we had to move to our real shelters in the common cellar and where we used to sleep for days on makeshift cardboard floors on concrete. Now I’ve finally accepted the place where I live and have abandoned any idea to moving to a more comfortable place. I wish I had more money to find something more secluded and peaceful, but that’s life.

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    1. I felt shivers when you wrote of your experience moving to a basement shelter during the war. I am forever grateful that I have not lived through a war – something which was a possibly at one time in South Africa. The true victims of the war are the ordinary people who have nothing to do with the power struggle between the men who want to rule.

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      1. Thank you, Colline. It was tough, but we lived and even forgot about it – (we were very young, 23, when it started and hubby was recruited to spend a whole year on the front lines in terrible conditions, having to sleep in bunkers and wet, freezing ground, and I was here in the capital scared like hell and living nightmares worrying). When one goes through such an experience he/she learns to appreciate life more.

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  12. I agree that this is a post that speaks from a caring heart. We should all be concerned for the needs of others. We are hoping to relocate. We have had a wonderful experience in the mountains of Southern California. I wish to be closer to granddaughters…little girls.

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  13. No matter where my house is, my true shelter is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is my rock and fortress! Love your pictures and thoughts and prompt to think about shelter. Also love your visitor pictures. How do you do that?

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    1. If you go to flagcounter.com you will be able to sign up. They will give you a code which you put in the widget area.the visitors from the time you register will then be counted.

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  14. The Maslov chart is good. I live in a subsidized housing for seniors building in Staten Island. It is safe and better kept up than any apartment I’ve had. One doesn’t need to live in a wealthy building to be happy.

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  15. The Buddha taught wanting is the cause of our suffering.
    “Maslow’s hierarchy of needs,” shows a need is a necessity wanting is not.
    Reading your post Collins I thought of a book you may enjoy reading.
    “Guns, Gems,and Steel.” Jarad Diamond.

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    1. Thank you for the suggestion. Though I do admit that my current non-fiction reading concentrates on teaching at the kindergarten level with the new theories on play-based learning 🙂

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  16. Last year, my wife and I moved into a new house in a great suburb of our city to improve both our living conditions but also improve our business potential because, unfortunately, the locals judge each other on things like this.

    The move certainly has improved our living conditions considerably, and enriched the lives of our young nieces who visit often but has only helped us businesswise a little — not a lot yet.

    It’s only been a year. We will see how far we can go with this.

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  17. We’re a small family (dad, mom, kid) that lives in a 65 m² apartment. If we could afford to, we would probably have moved into something bigger. I think I read in some newspaper recently that the average in Norway is 1 person per 60 m² residence.

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    1. It seems that many people in our modern society have had to learn to live in small spaces. Even though we live in small spaces, I am grateful that we have access to shelter.

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    1. Thank you for your compliment. We often take these things for granted and do not realise how important they are for our sense of well being.
      All the best to you during this holiday season.

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  18. I think it’s all in the mind Colline. So many people in the western world ‘think’ they need a lot of things in order to be happy, as in many material possessions. Other cultures who are so much poorer, and who often live off the land, appear to be far more content with less money, less possessions and very simple dwellings. My home is where I find peace away from the world – a snug corner in the woods with squirrels and owls for neighbours!
    Happy New Year!

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    1. I agree that what the western feels they need is not what refers to their basic needs. The need to shelter, love and food, though, is a reality that many face and can cause stress. I have taught children whose shelter was not always assured and it does cause stress. And no-one can deny the need for food in order to survive.

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      1. yeah – and from the other comments – this post also seemed to remind us to really be grateful for the sturdy shelter we have (which seems to be a theme (being grateful) over here at colline’s blog place! 🙂

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  19. Nice to meet you, Colline! Thank you for following my blog! I live in a 55+ Separate condo home where all landscaping is taken care of. It’s perfect for retired people as I am. Blessings in 2016.

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