Arnhem, The Netherlands

Love of my life

Inge and her husband Björn were evicted after the unexpected death of their foster father and mentor. The couple, former sailors, are adventurous and strong. But after almost 3 years of illegal camping, with the fines to prove it, they long for a roof over their heads.

Photography and storytelling: Tony Dočekal
28-06-2021
Est. 4 minutes

Inge and her husband Björn were evicted after the unexpected death of their foster father and mentor. The couple, former sailors, are adventurous and strong. But after almost 3 years of illegal camping, with the fines to prove it, they long for a roof over their heads.

“We’ve been sleeping outside for 30 months now,” Inge tells me. Her stepdad passed away on January 5th, 2019. Inge and her husband Björn were living with him at the time. He was a mentor and father figure for both of them, but they were not on the lease. They were evicted. “We came back from the cremation and were unable to enter the house. We weren’t even allowed to take our stuff out. We didn’t know where to go. I slept in a shelter for one night, and then ran away as fast as I could.”

Married for a little over three years, Inge and Björn consciously choose not to sleep in a homeless shelter. They are not allowed to sleep together there. And they need each other.



“I only have to look at him and he knows what I want. I wake up in the morning and he’s already preparing breakfast for me. I don’t even have to get out of bed yet. He is just very sweet and gentle.

I feel that he loves me because he does everything for me. Whatever stupidity he gets up to, I always forgive him. I love him. That’s it. He is the love of my life.”

Inge’s dad was a captain on a riverboat. She was learning to be a captain on his ship before he passed away. Björn was a sailor. “We lost Dad, lost the shipping company… there we were. We’ve been all over the place since then. Under the bridge, over there, behind those trees, in Sonsbeek Park…”

When a familiar ship passes us on the river, it brings back memories and both Inge and Björn become emotional.

“We hardly had time to process,” says Björn, visibly affected. “The constant struggle with enforcement, relocating, fines… We miss Dad, and we miss sailing too. That suits us, we are really free-spirited. That is why we like to stay close to the water.”

“We used to transport steel. I still know a lot of sailors.”

– Inge

“We are in the parking lot every day to raise money for food.”

– Inge
Inge shares her experience of sleeping in a Sheltersuit.

As he confidently makes his way through the blackberry bushes, Björn tells me, “When I come home at night to a tent, I’m exhausted.”

Their tent is carefully hidden between the ferns and nettles. “A lot of people tell us: ‘go to work’, well you go and stand there for 4 hours in a parking lot asking for money, continuously telling the same story. It’s grueling. But I give my life a 10+. When I see what we have achieved so far, it can only get better.”

“Look, and because this side is waterproof, you can wipe everything clean! Ideal.”

– Inge

The Sheltersuits the couple used last winter are now safely stored, but one of the bottom parts is still being put to good use in their tent. Inge shows me that the sleeping bag bottom still comes in handy, even though the Sheltersuits are now too warm to sleep in during the Dutch summer.

It is extremely valuable for our organization to get feedback from people who have tested our products this intensively. We are working together with Studio Joris de Groot to optimize the Shelterbag, and Inge and Björn will help us with this.

The morning after their first night in the Shelterbag I already received a message from Inge: “we slept great!”

Joris demonstrates the Shelterbags

The couple’s resilience and entrepreneurial spirit are admirable. In the past months, they’ve worked on a documentary and a tv show. They give guided tours through Arnhem, sharing their story with students, educating people, and fighting the stigma of homelessness.

“We explain that not every homeless person is an addict. That you can also become unhoused if you have had a good job. We visit places where unsheltered people sleep, show you where we can get food and clothes, and where we can take a shower.”

– Inge

You can book a walk with Inge and Björn via the Vagebond website, because, as the organization itself says: “talking with is always better than talking about.”

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About this project

For this ongoing project, we engage with unhoused communities in various cities. The intimate documentary reflects the unraveling of society and exposes the equal measures of strength and vulnerability of each of its characters.

By capturing these raw moments in a new light, we challenge the mainstream representation of a growing, forgotten group. It reminds us that people who experience homelessness should neither be labeled nor disregarded. Everyone has a story to tell.