High-tech homeless cart
Darren Handschuh - May 17, 2018 - Biz Releases

Image: UBCO

A group of UBC Okanagan students have turned their collective minds to the streets and built the first-ever personal belongings carrier.

Specifically designed for homeless people to carry their belongings in, the cart is now ready to roll.

The idea was born of a partnership between UBC Okanagan’s School of Engineering and Metro Community Church, which works with the Kelowna homeless population.

Project engineer Bryn Crawford the project to design personal belongings carriers evolved into a long-term community undertaking that will make life easier for Kelowna’s homeless people

Crafted by faculty, staff and students at the School of Engineering, the carrier is partially constructed with composite materials designed in the Okanagan node of UBC’s Composites Research Network. The goal was to make something strong, yet light that can be easily manipulated along city streets.

“One of the largest and most rewarding challenges addressed so far, is to develop this carrier in a way that satisfies the needs of the entire community. The teamwork between all community stakeholders has been fantastic and has been a very valuable experience for all students involved,” said Crawford.

Last week, Crawford’s team handed the original prototype to representatives from Metro Community which provides a safe place for people struggling with homelessness, mental health challenges, addiction and poverty.

The prototype will be given to a member of the street community to ‘test drive’ and provide feedback to the engineers.

“We’re certainly excited to pick this one up and get it out on the streets for a test drive,” said Metro’s Devon Siebenga. “We have a couple members of our community in mind who will be able to use this and let us know how practical it is.”

The cart will allow homeless people to secure their belongings, normally stowed in shopping carts. The carts are lockable and users can leave them while they attend appointments, get a meal or access other support services.

This first one, which can be dismantled into three lockable sections, is made of plywood and specialty designed composites, comes equipped with hand brakes, a removable bicycle hitch, a GPS unit, shelving inside each compartment and 3D-printed wheel hubs.

“Many of the people who live on the streets, live from minute-to-minute and stress about securing their belongings,” said Siebenga. “This limits their ability to get a hand up and the problems further compromise their sense of stability and path to recovery. This personal belongings carrier is a first small step in restoring their dignity.”

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