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On streets, alleyways and under bridges, the daily struggle is very real. Individuals who are coping with homelessness fight to stay warm, fed and sheltered every moment of their life. During the winter season, such needs are often neglected and stretched beyond unfathomable limits.

To address this prevailing issue, an organization developed a unique suit that covers two out of the three basic requirements of human survival. Called Sheltersuit, the contraption is a jacket that doubles as a sleeping bag. It’s efficient, sturdy and reliable against unforgiving urban conditions.

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“Unfortunately thousands of people, even in the Netherlands, have to spend their days and nights on our streets. We wanted to offer everyone the means to stay warm, dry and safe when sleeping outside in cold climates,” explained Bas Timmer, a fashion designer and the creator of the suit. He was inspired to develop the gear after learning about the death of his friend’s father, who lived on the streets. Left out to face the crippling cold without any support, the man died of hypothermia.

Giving Back to the Community

The Sheltersuit foundation manufactures the suits for those who need them. There are currently around 2,500 in circulation around the Netherlands with more being made due to the increasing demand for the product. Assigned to assemble the contraptions are professional tailors who are also Syrian refugees. The group created the arrangement as a way for refugees to establish themselves in the community. Through the agreement, the services are exchanged for assimilation courses and guidance for permanent housing initiatives. The way the foundation operates allows the gear to be distributed for free.

Built to Last

Interestingly, the entire suit is composed of recycled tents that party-goers leave behind during outdoor festivals. The region is known for hosting extravagant events, which attracts thousands of people worldwide. This makes the material abundant, and because of their pre-owned state, extremely cost efficient. The designer turned to the fabric due to its wind and water resistant features. While camping, tents normally serve as the first line of defense against devastating weather.

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When used as clothing, the suit offers mobility for people who are always on the go. In transit mode, the sleeping bag seamlessly detaches from the jacket. It can be stored in a waterproof bag, or used to carry small items. “The most challenging aspect of the design process was to put ourselves in the position of a homeless person,” highlighted Timmer during an interview with Dezeen. “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.”

Timmer devotes his own studio, located in Enchede, to the daily operations of the movement. He has also teamed up with other businesses and like-minded individuals, including Alexander de Groot in hopes to distribute as many suits as possible before thick snow and chilling winds engulf the city.

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