For millions of homeless people around the world, finding shelter from the elements can be a challenge. Extreme winter cold and summer heat can be fatal to people who aren’t sufficiently protected.
Tough tents produced by BillionBricks, a small non-profit in Singapore, are pitched at alleviating the problem.
Priced at about $100 per WinterHyde tent, the triple-layer weatherproof fabric is draped over a basic structure assembled from common PVC pipes. The idea is for people to find or purchase the inexpensive pipes on their own, so the tent fabric and joint parts can be shipped to them more easily, explained Prasoon Kumar, founder and CEO of BillionBricks.
The team also decided to make the fabric drape reversible — in the winter, it keeps body heat in, and in the summer, it reflects the sun.
BillionBricks just concluded a small six-month pilot in New Delhi, in which 12 homeless families were sheltered through winter and summer months. They gave suggestions to the company, such as built-in lighting — a feature that might find its way into the next design upgrade with solar lights, he said.
Some families have also requested larger tents. The structures are designed to hold two adults and three children, but Kumar noticed families of up to seven sleeping in them.
“I saw (the tent) as an emergency shelter for winter, but this couple I saw moved a bed inside. They said it was the first home they’ve had in years,” he said.
BillionBricks is working with other non-profits and governments to reach more homeless people with the product. The company plans for these groups to fund the tents, but is also working on a financing plan that would let homeless people pay for their tents over time.
Its next test project will be far more ambitious, with plans to send 1,000 WinterHyde tents to countries in South Asia by the end of the year.
But BillionBricks faces more barriers than simply reaching the homeless, Kumar said. “I’ve faced a lot of lack of urgency on the ground, from some organisations,” he lamented.
“There’s a lack of accountability. What happens when people die? Some media coverage — but no heads roll.”