Unsheltered Moments L.A. – part 1
We’d like to introduce you to some of the people we’ve had to pleasure of meeting this winter when we were in Los Angeles with 530 Shelterbags from our social factory in Cape Town.Read this story
At least 63,706 people are currently homeless in Los Angeles County. That’s according to a count by the Los Angeles Homeless Services Authority (LAHSA) where they noticed a 20% increase in homelessness compared to 2019. The COVID-19 pandemic has only brought more challenges, with housing affordability and decreased capacity in shelters further contributing to encampments throughout the city.
Sheltersuit is looking forward to producing and distributing 530 Shelterbags in partnership with local organisations. This is a portable sleeping mat, sleeping bag, and pillow that rolls up into a bag. It’s been specially designed for people living on the street and helps ease some of the symptoms of homelessness.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made homelessness far more prominent and visible. At the onset of the pandemic, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended that people living outdoors should be sheltered in one place because forcing them to relocate could lead to disease spread. They also advised shelters to decrease their capacity by 50% to ensure social distancing among residents. This resulted in massive street encampments that have spread from skid row to almost all parts of Los Angeles.
With more challenging conditions for people experiencing homelessness, the Shelterbag acts as an interim solution that meets the most basic needs of surviving on the street. They are made in a social factory with repurposed materials.
Our long-term goal though is to set up a local production facility that would provide jobs for people experiencing homelessness locally. Every contribution to this will make a huge difference, especially in these three ways:
We create products thoughtfully designed to protect people from the elements. With the help of our partners, these products are distributed all over the world, keeping people warm and dry.
The fashion and textiles industry is extraordinarily wasteful. For us, that’s an opportunity to take high quality materials and repurpose them into something meaningful.
We want to close the gap for people with a distance to the labour force. For newcomers, people who’ve overcome hardship or people with a disability, we feel privileged to create employment opportunities.
A good night’s sleep is a small step towards a life-changing chance.Melissa, Salvation Army L.A. Metro
Many activists are fighting to keep homeless encampments in place. They argue that the only possible alternative to people living in tents in public spaces is costly public housing. LAHSA says the demand for affordable housing for people experiencing homelessness is high, as well as for people with low incomes who are on the verge of losing their housing because of rent affordability.
According to LAHSA, the rise in homelessness is a result of stagnant income, rising housing prices, lack of investment in mental health services, lack of tenant protections, and discriminatory land use. Another major factor is mass incarceration, with 60% of L.A.’s homeless population having cycled through the criminal justice system. This has led to Los Angeles now having the fewest number of housing units per adult of any major American city.
Someone can experience homelessness while sheltered (couch surfing, shelters, transitional housing) or unsheltered (cars, tents, out in the open). In their research, LAHSA believes that most unsheltered people prefer non-congregate housing options.
We proudly partnered with the LA-based NGOs The Salvation Army, Lava Mae, The Refresh Spot, Project Ropa, St. Francis Center, and Mt. Tabor. Together we will start the distribution of 530 Shelterbags in November 2021.
By calling someone homeless, you’re defining them by one characteristic: the fact that they are homeless. Homeless is not who someone is; rather, it’s their current circumstance. Together with our distribution partners in LA, we advocate humanizing our approach to people experiencing homelessness and want to provide a platform where there is room to share and learn from each other.
The Shelterbag is a portable, sheltered sleeping mat that rolls up into a bag. It is waterproof, lightweight, easy to handle and has an extra compartment for a few personal items.
It comes with a sleeping bag and a built-in pillow but also has room for an extra mattress or blanket, making it adaptable for all seasons. A flexible tent pole is integrated into the hood to keep it upright, providing more space and better shelter from the rain.
Support this project and help ease the symptoms for people experiencing homelessness.Bas Timmer, founder of the Sheltersuit Foundation