With shelters overcrowded and canvas tents banned in Brussels, a group of volunteers found a way to help the homeless stay warm this winter. They distribute portable cardboard tents to those who have no roof over their heads.
“There are 2,600 people living in the streets of Brussels,” Xavier Dupont, spokesperson for a volunteer association, told Ruptly on Friday. The new tents are given to people who fail to find housing at the shelter and are forced to sleep rough. “Cardboard makes a good thermic isolation, and we also give plastic sheets to protect the floor from humidity,” Dupont noted.
“There are more than 4,000 people that might include refugees, so, this is something we try to do as a quick answer to this emergency problem, because it’s the winter,” Dupont said. “There is a large number of people who are homeless and it’s quite uncomfortable to sleep during the night, in the humidity or in the cold, so, this is cardboard. We made it large enough for a couple or a single person with a pet, with a dog or whatever and the bags of the person.”
Belgian activists first began distributing the portable tents – inspired by Origami, the traditional Japanese art of paper folding – late last month.
Camping is forbidden and canvas tents are banned on the streets of Brussels. Some homeless people refuse to go to nearby shelters where pets are not allowed. On top of that, most of the local dormitories that house the homeless have been full since the beginning of winter, BX1 reported.
One of the biggest advantages of the project – called ‘ORIG-AMI’ – is that it offers mobility, allowing the homeless to carry the tents with them on their backs wherever they go.
The idea was triggered by a job rehabilitation center. The materials were donated by a local supplier and the tents were assembled by a work initiative at Lantin Prison, SudInfo.be reported.
“We live in one of the most comfortable countries in the world. I find it difficult to accept that human beings are spending the night on the streets, on the pavements, outside our windows,” Xavier Van der Stappen, who financed and distributed the first series of ORIG-AMI prototypes, said.
“In Brussels, the capital of Europe, 2,600 people are sleeping on the pavement. The number is increasing year after year. Life is unpredictable, any one of us could find ourselves on the street,” he added.
Anyone can help the project by sponsoring an ORIG-AMI tent for €30 ($36), Van der Stappen says. If the homeless take to their new homes, several hundred tents will be distributed next year.