Homelessness is a complex social issue. No one really chooses to stay on the street, and often, when you dig a bit deeper, there might be broader, underlying concerns like lack of affordable housing, lack of access to mental health services or subsidized addiction recovery programs. But these bigger social issues take time to change, and in the meantime, it is a constant, daily struggle for many homeless people who have to find ways to stay fed and sheltered.
To give homeless people a temporary and portable shelter that goes wherever they go, Dutch designer Bas Timmer came up with the Sheltersuit, a jacket that doubles as an insulated, wind- and water-resistant sleeping bag. Bas, who collaborated with Alexander de Groot, was inspired to create the suit when a friend's father died living on the streets.
We immediately said that whatever the design will be, it would have to be warm, strong, waterproof and simple to use. With that in mind, the rest of the design was done step by step in a problem solution method. For instance, when we had a jacket in mind we thought about our legs still being exposed to the cold, so we looked at what types of ways people keep their legs warm outside
There's a lot to like about the way the suits are made: first off, they use recycled tent material that has been leftover from festival sites, the Sheltersuit is meant to protect both the upper body and the lower extremities.
Secondly, they are sewn with the help of professional tailors, Syrian refugees who make the suits in exchange for assimilation classes and help for finding housing. Thirdly, over 2,500 Sheltersuits will be distributed for free throughout the Netherlands to homeless people in need, through the Sheltersuit foundation.
Though design alone cannot solve complex social problems like homelessness, it can do much to at least provide a immediate service to people who need something warm and dry to help them through the night. To find out more, visit Sheltersuit's website.