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Shockingly, 976 people died while homeless across the UK in 2020, according to an annual piece of work by the Museum of Homelessness. That’s a 37 percent increase on the numbers reported in the group’s 2019 study. There are a plethora of reasons why people become homeless.
The recent surge in UK house prices is making the possibility of owning a property even more unobtainable.
Lack of affordable housing, increased prices in the private residential rental sector and extortionate council tax and utility bills means the cost of living day-to-day is expensive.
Long periods of being homeless can also exacerbate mental health problems and lead to substance abuse issues.
Homeless individuals who sleep rough on the street can’t always gain access to homeless shelters and so will often use doorways, tents, cardboard boxes and sleeping bags to shield themselves from cold weather, rain and snow.
While homeless shelters are an option, it’s not for everyone, as Founder of SMART SHELTA Ross Bundy told Express.co.uk.
“They prefer to sleep on the streets because of bad experiences in homeless shelters and refuge centres,” he explained.
Ross, who was a ambulance technician on the front line for the Ambulance Service for over 20 years, has created an incredible shelter designed to offer warmth, personal space and protection to homeless individuals.
The shelter, aptly called SMART SHELTA, is made from recycled plastic which folds together to form a suitcase on wheels.
Not only is it discreet, but owners can use it to pull their belongings along while simultaneously charging a battery.
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The battery powers two USB power outlets inside the shelter, and can also power a heating element and a built-in strip light.
Ross exclusively told Express.co.uk the heartbreaking story that inspired him to create SMART SHELTA.
He said: “I met a guy a few times and he used to tell me his story because we used to take him into hospital for various reasons.
“He was homeless from the age of 14, and he ended up living in London and then he came back to the area I was working in.”
The individual told Ross about how unsafe he felt on the streets and described some of the abuse he encountered.
“He used to get verbally abused, kicked and punched – through the tent he was sleeping in sometimes,” Ross explained.
Although he didn’t have stable accommodation to sleep in, the man felt that a cardboard box made him feel protected and warm.
Ross said the individual felt the four walls gave “an illusion of feeling a bit safer”.
Some homeless people, like Ross’ friend, have had poor experiences in shelters which is why they live on the street.
“There will always be people that prefer to stay on the streets,” Ross added.
Unfortunately, Ross heard from another paramedic that the 26-year-old man died in his tent after it was set alight.
“But that gave me the idea,” Ross said.
“He said he wanted a permanent cardboard box that he could take with him and feel safer in.
“The other thing is, he said you could never get away from the cold, even though you get hardened to it.”
Ross built the 7ft 8 inches-long SMART SHELTA prototype himself and has even slept in it in the snow with the heating element inside.
“I actually got too warm,” he laughed, “but I have tried it out and it does work.”
The SMART SHELTA is raised off the ground, allowing air to flow underneath.
A vent in each door also offers good air circulation and ventilation which all helps to keep the occupant warm and comfortable.
Ross also gained advice from homeless individuals who offered him pointers on the colour of the shelter and what improvements needed to be made.
He said: “The homeless people I met who were trying it out, they made me change the colour.
“The prototype was white, and they wanted me to make it green or grey so they didn’t stand out because they can get the wrong attention.
“I also made it bigger because most of them have got dogs.”
The former ambulance technician said he is hoping to raise money via his Go Fund Me page for the SMART SHELTA to be manufactured and shipped.
The money raised would be used to outsource the manufacture of units, along with the associated costs involved, including advertising, premises, packaging, staff wages and logistics.
Getting SMART SHELTA into the marketplace could improve countless lives, especially those who are vulnerable and need a safe space to call their own.
The pandemic has seen more than 70,000 households be made homeless, according to figures compiled by the Observer earlier this year.
Ross added: “During this pandemic, people have lost businesses, and homes, none of us really know how they end up homeless or whether it could happen to us.”
In July 2020, the Government launched the Next Steps Accommodation Programme, and in November 2020, they launched the Protect Programme, which runs alongside the ‘Everyone In’ scheme.
All these programmes were launched as a part of the Government’s Rough Sleeping Strategy.
The number of people estimated to be sleeping rough on a single night in autumn has fallen for the third year in a row from its peak in 2017 but remains higher than in 2010 when the snapshot approach was first introduced.
If you would like to support Ross’ venture and help him manufacture and distribute SMART SHELTA, you can visit his Go Fund Me Page here.
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