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Sheltersuit, DesignLab and Saxion work on high-tech suits for the homeless

Sheltersuit – a water repellent and windproof suit with removable sleeping bag for refugees and the homeless – will receive an update. With the help of electronics, DesignLab University of Twente, the Saxion lectorate Smart Functional Materials and the Sheltersuit Foundation are going to transform the suit into an 'Urban Safety Kit'. They are doing so in the context of WEAR Sustain, an EU Horizon 2020 project that allocated €50,000 to the partners for research and development.

The concept for the original Sheltersuit was developed by Bas Timmer, a designer from Twente. He founded the Sheltersuit Foundation in 2014 when a father of two of his friends had died in the streets as a result of hypothermia. Since that day, over 1800 Shelter Suits have been produced and distributed worldwide, including at the Kara Tepe camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.

Now, the further development of the suit focuses on the practical problems faced by the homeless. Unsafe situations while sleeping, the risk of hypothermia and limited access to phone charging points, for example. Anyone who 'has to sleep outdoors in the cold streets of the city' can use it, says Edo de Wolf, Project Coordinator for DesignLab. "It is also conceivable that you use this suit to accommodate refugees, just like the original Sheltersuit.”

Versatile

DesignLab brings students and researchers from various disciplines together for the project to develop and test an electronic module. The Saxion lectorate Smart Functional Materials provides expertise in the field of smart textiles, while Sheltersuit focuses on the business model and production line.

In addition to electronics, the 'Urban Safety Kit' will consist of materials such as tent cloth, donated by major textile companies from Twente such as TenCate Outdoor Fabrics as well as other organizations from all over Europe. "A good example of circular design," says Jurrie Barkel, Sheltersuit’s Treasurer.

This project gives us the opportunity to make a difference for a good social cause.Edo de Wolf, Project Coordinator DesignLab / Student Human Media Interaction University of Twente

De Wolf realizes that the Urban Safety Kit cannot solve homelessness. "The answer to that is as multilayered as the issue itself. In any case, the suits provide an instant and immediately applicable short-term solution. Whether it works in the long term, will depend on its user and his or her situation. For me, tthis project is certainly very special because it gives us the opportunity to make a difference for a good social cause.”

Kick-off

The timeline of the Urban Safety Kit project is six months: from April to September 2018. In the fall, the partners are hoping to have finished the prototype suits, tested and ready for distribution. The official kick-off for the project will be on March 23, during the WEAR Sustain Induction Day at the University of the Arts in Berlin.