The “urban rough sleeper” is a rugged tent that can be carried around during the day.

Danish designer Ragnhild Lübbert Terpling was moved by the problem of homelessness after attending a lecture where she saw images of people living on the street. She was also impressed by their creative solutions for shelter.

“I made the product in collaboration with homeless people,” Terpling says, explaining that she spent weeks at a shelter getting to know the people there.

Terpling also partnered with her husband, a sailmaker, who offered advice on finding waterproof, sturdy materials that could survive in a rough environment.

When it’s rolled up into a backpack, the design can also serve as storage.

“I observed how the homeless forget their stuff or lose their stuff--they have quite a lot of things actually, but a lot of them don’t have one place to keep their stuff together."

“So it’s storage, mobility, and shelter--those are the three problems that the product can help with solving.”

Right now, Terpling has two prototypes, and is working to refine final details before beginning manufacture.

She plans to sell the backpack to the camping market, and will use the proceeds to give away as many as possible to those on the streets.

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2014-01-13

Co.Exist

This Backpack Rolls Out Into A Homeless Shelter

For people living on the streets (and the camping crowd, too), the "urban rough sleeper" could offer better protection from the elements and storage during the day.

Even though a few cities are slowly starting to have some success reducing the size of their homeless populations and putting people in permanent housing, most are far from that goal. For those unlucky enough to live on the streets now, a new design could offer an upgrade to the standard cardboard box: The “urban rough sleeper” from a Danish designer is a rugged tent that folds up into a backpack so it can be carried around during the day.

Homelessness may not be as prevalent in Copenhagen as in some American cities like San Francisco and New York, but designer Ragnhild Lübbert Terpling started considering the issue after attending a lecture where she saw images of people living on the street. She was moved by the problem, but equally interested in the creative solutions homeless people had found for shelter, and decided to continue pursuing the idea herself.

“I made the product in collaboration with homeless people,” Terpling says, explaining that she spent weeks at a shelter getting to know the people there. “They had to have some trust in me being there before they would talk to me. A lot of them were addicts or physically or mentally ill people, so it took some time.”

Eventually, after dozens of interviews to better understand the problem, she found two people who worked closely with her on the design. “I showed them sketches and the design and they gave me feedback on how it would actually work, because they are the experts. They also helped me test the final product.”

Terpling also partnered with her husband, a sailmaker, who offered advice on finding waterproof, sturdy materials that could survive in a rough environment. Though they haven’t yet done long-term tests of durability, Terpling says that if the product develops small holes it can easily be repaired.

When it’s rolled up into a backpack, the design can also serve as storage. “I observed how the homeless forget their stuff or lose their stuff--they have quite a lot of things actually, but a lot of them don’t have one place to keep their stuff together. So that’s an important part of the product as well,” Terling explains. “So it’s storage, mobility, and shelter--those are the three problems that the product can help with solving.”

Right now, Terpling has two prototypes, and is working to refine final details before beginning manufacture. She plans to sell the backpack to the camping market, and will use the proceeds to give away as many as possible to those on the streets.

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11 Comments

  • Matt Torre

    For homeless people living in Toronto the cold temperatures are always an issue. They are forced to sleep on the streets in these freezing temperatures. By giving them a warm place to sleep you are improving their lives.

  • I think this invention will impact the lives of homeless people everywhere in a good way. This is because instead of sleeping on the ground and having no way of getting out of the cold nights, if they cannot get into any shelters, they now have a way to sleep in a warm and portable shelter. This invention will help homeless people stay warmer in the nights and reduce the risk of injuries towards them such as frostbite. However there is one problem that comes with this great invention, someone when distributing the product must teach the homeless how to set and pack up the actual shelter.

  • Another issue could be the weight of the actual packed up shelter, you have to think some homeless people are elderly and weaker than others, is this invention going to be able to be easily carried around or will it cause problems when the homeless are traveling from place to place?

  • This could help improve lots of peoples lives who live on the streets in major cities. For instance homeless people in Toronto have to stay out in the freezing cold some nights if they can't get into a shelter, and it gets very cold in Toronto. This invention could keep them warmer and out of the wind.

  • Quinton Iddison

    Although it doesn't put homeless people in a real house it is still a very good idea that will work. I think that if the people that are already homeless they would like to get a real house to stay in to get off the streets. So this invention gets them one step closer to that goal. If a homeless person really wants to get off the streets this will help them survive long enough for them to achieve that goal, even if they don't want to buy a house it will keep them warmer and safer then if they were out on the side walk with nothing.

  • Avery Wannamaker

    I think this could impact our city in a very good way but it does have some negatives to it. I think this would benefit our city because there would be way less homeless people deaths due to the cold, which would benefit everyone for obvious reasons. However this idea could have a negative affect aswell because if civilians see homeless people using this it could make them feel less sensitivity towards the homless, secondly many homless people could abuse this priveledge and sell the product for drugs and alcohol.

  • Quinton Iddison

    I agree with the entire thing except for the selling part. This item will have to be pretty cheap so that a homeless person can afford it. So therefore if it is cheap it couldn't be sold for very much money so it would be pointless to sell it.

  • This isn't helping homeless people, it's helping homeless people TO BE HOMELESS. Terpling is seriously inventive and his heart is in the right place, I just wish he was focused on getting people into homes instead of into tents.

  • Avery Wannamaker

    Mae, this is a very good point. I also agree that homes would be better than these tents But think of all the homeless peoples lives these tents could save..