With the right partners and support, their goal is to employ 300 seamstresses who would be able to provide a Shelterbag to 400 000 homeless people in South Africa within a year. In addition, the South Africa operation could supply additional Sheltersuit products to other markets because the cost of production is much lower here.
South Africa (10 October 2020) – The latest estimates on the number of homeless people in South Africa vary considerably. Depending on who one speaks to, these figures range from 200 000 to 400 000 people.
While the exact statistics on homelessness are often debated as they are dependent on variables such as how one defines homeless, what cannot be contested is the fact that the impact of the pandemic has likely increased this number. The latest unemployment statistics (Q1 2020) put unemployment at 30.1%, the highest jobless rate on record since data was first made available in 2008. The most affected persons were women and youth.
Seeing homeless people living under bridges or huddled up against a building is a common sight in South Africa. Knowing how to help or believing that one person can make an impact is a more complex issue and one which often leads to people doing nothing.
But one person did decide to take action, and his organisation intends making a big impact to the homeless people in South Africa while creating employment – as it is doing elsewhere in the world.
Earlier this year, the Sheltersuit Foundation (www.sheltersuit.com) established a pilot programme in Cape Town to manufacture multifunctional products that provide immediate shelter to people experiencing homelessness. Due to the success of the pilot, Sheltersuit was able to employ 7 previously unemployed women permanently and intends scaling the business to develop additional production pods throughout South Africa and employ more people, particularly unemployed women and youth.
Dutch fashion designer Bas Timmer founded Sheltersuit in 2014 at the age of 24. Timmer felt compelled to do something after a friend’s father died due to being forced to sleep outside. He decided to use his design skills to develop the Sheltersuit and subsequently Shelterbag to protect the homeless. To date by working in collaboration with local NGOs and shelters to understand the needs of each community., the Foundation has supported over 10 000 people with Sheltersuit products around Europe, America, South Africa, and the United Kingdom.
“Our ambition is to work with like-minded partners to ramp up production in South Africa to provide both shelter, warmth and dignity to South Africa’s homeless people, and working with relief agencies, to distribute our Shelterbags globally for disaster relief,” says Timmer, who came to South Africa in November 2019 on an impromptu visit which resulted in the establishment of the South African arm of the Sheltersuit Foundation.
“With the right partners and support, our goal is to employ 300 seamstresses who would be able to provide a Shelterbag to 400 000 homeless people in South Africa within a year. Also, the South Africa operation could supply additional Sheltersuit products to other markets because the cost of production is much lower here.”
“The South African operation is already producing some Sheltersuits for the United States. Imagine if we could double or triple the volume. South Africa would not only be helping create employment for its own people but also contributing to helping other homeless people around the world. Our focus is local, but our mindset will always be global”, he added. Sheltersuit has distributed Sheltersuits to refugee camps for several years, most recently donating 3,500 Sheltersuits to the refugees based in the Lesbos refugee camp in Greece.
“As I experienced, becoming homeless doesn’t necessarily happen to people you don’t know. On World Homeless Day, take a moment to think about how you can help,” added Timmer.
Here are a few ideas for you to get involved:
- Sleep out in Solidarity – various parties have organised sleepouts in the Cape at Muizenberg, Sea Point and Somerset West.
- Collect and donate Sleeping bags
- Host a fundraiser
- Become a regular donor – it’s really simple – go to www.sheltersuit.com and click on the Donate Now button
- Raise awareness about homelessness
- Share posts about our mission using the hashtags #Sheltersuit or #SpreadWarmth
- Donate a Shelterbag
- Become a Sheltersuit distribution partner
- Chat to someone experiencing homelessness in your area
- Volunteer – either your time or skills
For further information on all these ideas, please contact Lyn at Sheltersuit on 072 247 0860 or firstname.lastname@example.org.