EMPOWERING THE HOMELESS

Come rain or shine - a tent of their own

SINGAPORE • For six years, a married homeless couple in Delhi, India, were forced to live apart in gender-segregated communal shelters. Last year, for the first time, they were able to move into their own "home".

Home is a tent, designed by the Singapore-based, non-profit organisation billionBricks. It can be set up by one person in 15 minutes without any tools or anchor pegs.

It is weather-resistant, offering protection from the city's extreme temperatures. It is spacious, able to fit a family of two adults and three children. The couple even moved in a bed, said billionBricks founder Prasoon Kumar.

More than 20 homeless families have tried out the tent in Delhi and Mumbai.

Mr Kumar said homelessness is difficult to eradicate, but considers the tents an interim solution. "Time is required to find sustainable solutions, but there's also a humanitarian need, and, as time passes, people are dying."

The United Nations estimated 100 million people to be without homes in 2005. Many die from exposure.

The weatherHYDE tent is made to be weatherproof. In winter, its triple-layer, reversible cover provides insulation, while reflective material on the inside retains body heat. In summer, the other side can be used to reflect solar heat and help people inside the tent stay cool.

It also provides privacy.

Mr Kumar, an architect, started billionBricks in 2013. Last year, it raised more than $145,000 through crowdfunding, enabling it to provide 500 tents to needy families. Each tent costs $279.

Refinements to the tent's design include new locking mechanisms and waterproofing on both sides.

Its weatherHYDE website (www.weatherhyde.org) has a section where donors of a tent can type in its unique ID number to learn more about the homeless family who received it. billionBricks is also in talks with US groups to create jobs for people with disabilities by having them make the tents.

Aside from sponsors, Mr Kumar hopes to continue raising money through the weatherHYDE e-commerce platform, where the tents can be purchased and donated on a buy-one-give-one model and shipped anywhere in the world.

VIDEO: http://str.sg/4bbh

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 24, 2017, with the headline 'Come rain or shine - a tent of their own'. Print Edition | Subscribe