Street Sleeper: Innovative Social Upliftment

street sleeper

Street Sleeper – bridging the gap between mainstream society, and the homeless, one sleeping bag at a time.

Street Sleeper is a Cape Town based NPO that kills two birds with one stone. It turns waste, which would otherwise end up in landfills, into durable, temporary shelter for those living on the streets.

This innovative project involves the upcycling of advertising billboards into survival sleeping bags to provide immediate relief for those on the streets, while promoting social upliftment through dialogue and storytelling, and breaking down the social barriers between the homeless and the rest of society.

Street Sleeper came about when its founders realised that there was no accessible platform from which they could help the homeless. They decided to create their own platform, focusing on temporary shelter. Cape Town is a breeding ground for PVC advertising billboards. PVC happen to be strong, waterproof, flexible and non-recyclable. Begging to be upcycled, it was the perfect material for this innovative project.

street sleeper innovative social upliftment

Once the PVC has been sourced, cleaned and cut into uniformly sized panels, it is sewn into the final bag. Able to stand up to life on the street, the bags are wide enough for you to sleep with multiple layers of clothing and blankets, and deep enough to store valuables at your feet. For day time, the bags roll up into a 1.9kg backpack with a 40L capacity for storage. Completely waterproof, it provides protection from the harsh winter weather, including the cold, the wind and the rain.

The bags are distributed by various night shelters, feeding centres, like-minded NPOs and volunteers. Perhaps the most important function, distribution goes beyond basic needs provision, and facilitates social upliftment. Both the giver and receiver gains insight into the life of someone new. Though Street Sleeper organises distribution themselves, it’s the biggest reward when the person who donated the bag chooses to hand it over to its recipient, themselves. This meaningful step plays a big part in overcoming stigma and bridging the gap between those with homes, and those without.

Sleeping bags is just the start for Street Sleeper. The NPO is building long-term relationships with socially-aware corporate entities and individuals, who can help them sustain their work, and reach their goals.

Over 3700 sleeping bags have been distributed, to date, with over 4 tons of PVC waste has been diverted from landfill.
To get involved, or to donate a sleeping bag for R150, www.streetsleeper.org.

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