Sheltersuit coat doubles as a sleeping bag for the homeless


Dutch Design Week 2015: fashion designer Bas Timmer has used abandoned tents to create jackets that turn into waterproof sleeping bags for homeless people.

Sheltersuit was created by Timmer in collaboration with business parter Alexander de Groot, and was prompted by the death of a friend's father who had been living on the street.

Sheltersuit by Bas Timmer

The coat can be zipped together with a bottom half to form a sleeping bag. This detachable section can be stored in an accompanying backpack – solving the issue of carrying around a non-waterproof sleeping bag when not in use.

"The most challenging aspect of the design process was to put ourselves in the position of a homeless person," Timmer told Dezeen.

"We immediately said that whatever the design will be, it would have to be warm, strong, waterproof and simple to use. With that in mind, the rest of the design was done step by step in a problem solution method."

"For instance, when we had a jacket in mind we thought about our legs still being exposed to the cold, so we looked at what types of ways people keep their legs warm outside," he added.

Sheltersuit by Bas Timmer

Sheltersuits are made from abandoned tents collected from vacated music festival sites. They are manufactured in Timmer's own studio in Enschede, the Netherlands, in partnership with Syrian volunteers – many of whom are professional tailors.

In return the volunteers are offered assimilation courses, Dutch driving lessons and assistance with finding places to live.

The suits are given to homeless people for free through Timmer and de Groot's Sheltersuit foundation, which aims to distribute 2,500 across the Netherlands.

The jacket was mentioned in an opinion piece by Richard van der Laken, founder of What Design Can Do, as an example of ways Dutch designers are attempting to solve major humanitarian issues.

Sheltersuit by Bas Timmer

Design Academy Eindhoven graduate Pim van der Mijl also tackled challenges faced by displaced people with a living room concept that would bring refugees and locals together, and promote understanding.

Proposed housing solutions for homeless people include sleeping pods that would hang from the side of existing buildings and prefabricated housing that could be moved between temporary sites.

Sheltersuit was shown in the Klokgebouw building during Dutch Design Week 2015, which ran from 17 to 25 October.

  • H-J

    Sorry, but I always have mixed feelings about design projects where designers are trying to keep homeless people living on the streets, only making it a little less terrible instead of looking for durable permanent solutions.

    • J

      It’s a great project. Yes I agree more should be done to solve homelessness but that shouldn’t be at the cost of providing a little more warmth to those who are currently on the streets. To suggest this is trying to keep people on the streets is nothing short of idiotic.

      • H-J

        Providing homeless people with a sleeping bag is a way to keep them on the streets, sorry but that’s just how I see it. You give them an excuse and the tools to avoid the shelters altogether when it’s really getting cold and in the end more of them will freeze to death in their fancy designer sleeping bag on the streets instead of inside a shelter.

        • Ully

          Unfortunately you’re right. There’s a certain strain in the design community (huge portion) who seems to think it’s cool to live in the streets. And the minute a common sensible argument arises to really address the problem they attack it to shut it down.

        • Donkey

          Isn’t that a bit like saying that clean-needle schemes are a way of keeping people on heroin? It’s a way of minimising risk until the wider solution is reached, which could take months, years…

          • H-J

            Don’t be surprised if more homeless people will stay outside during winter (and freeze to death) because they think this jacket/sleeping bag will protect them from the elements. It’s creating a false sense of security. They simply need a roof over their head.

          • Julian

            I agree, I like where this project is coming from though in a way I feel like it sympathises with the issue (as in helps improve the living conditions) without resolving it.

            With what is going on in the world (refugees and all) homelessness is only growing wider. However, I think that this project can help on a small scale and contribute to raise awareness. And while designers do have a role to play in improving the lifestyle of homeless people, it’s something that requires the focus of other professions too.

        • Gina

          Just so you all know one of the reasons why people with or without this bag will stay out and not in shelters has a lot to do with injustice and disrespect people experience in the shelters. So these bags will just do some justice to those whom have a horrible experience in these places and will not go in Shelters no matter what.

          • Kaitlinroserobin

            Gina thank you for that.

        • Leo Moriarty

          Many say they avoid shelters to avoid drug use.
          Others are pet owners who can’t find pet-friendly alternatives to sleeping rough. Berlin has mobile vet clinics to ensure that their pets receive regular veterinary care.

        • Kaitlinroserobin

          Believe me if you ever stayed in a shelter you would not want to go back. That is how bad they are.

    • Felix Tannenbaum

      Just because a visit to a doctor is a better solution than a bandage DOES NOT mean that a bandage is useless in the meantime. Though, obviously, just build these people some freaking homes already.

    • fresh10

      I agree but designers are not politicians! This is a political issue. Design should and can only soften the blow for the most part.

    • Bart

      So what if they want to live on the streets. Let everyone live their life however they feel. Who says you have to live under a roof to be considered normal?

      • Leo Moriarty

        Vile assumption that all homeless choose that existence.

    • Stephen

      I can’t solve homelessness on my own, but I can cook a meal to feed people that are hungry. Should I not do that? Of course we should help and the more people that turn their attention to the issue the greater the political incentive to create change.

      I’d rather criticise designers making marble charging stations for Apple watches. Like it or not, materialism is a cause of homelessness, especially when it’s this crass:

    • akdreamin

      But, there are actually homeless people who live on the streets because, believe it or not, they choose to. They have family and friends who have offered to take them in and they refuse, so then what? You can’t force them to live in a house or apartment or whatever.

  • pipo

    Cool project. Great the distribution is also done by the design studio themselves. Really a very hands-on project.

  • Tom Nelson
  • Model

    Only a matter of time before we see these jackets hit the runway and hipsters embrace them as fashion statements.

  • bobk49

    Stupid idea. Cities should solve their homeless problems and designers should not design items regardless of how beneficial they may be.

  • Bob Terry

    Many homeless are on the streets because of addiction and mental health issues. Treatment is needed, not new clothing.