KELOWNA – Designed for cruising the aisles of stores, shopping carts are hardly an ideal place to store your belongings if you are living on the street.
A reality Robert Fforsyth can speak about from personal experience. He says shopping buggies are unsteady, have a tendency to tip and are extremely vulnerable to theft.
“It puts us into further crisis,” says Fforsyth. “Imagine if every month you came home and your house was blown away again.”
Aiming to help homeless people, some students and staff at UBC Okanagan are now working on an alternative to the conventional shopping cart in partnership with a Kelowna homeless outreach program.
The project actually began with input from Kelowna’s homeless population, then those design ideas were brought to the city, the RCMP and finally UBC Okanagan engineering students.
Supported by grant funding and in-kind donations from a Kelowna business, they are part of an effort to come up with what UBC calls “a personal belongings cart.”
The hope is that the purpose built belongings carts will provide a better way for homeless people to store and move their stuff.
“It is difficult for a homeless person to manage their belongings,” says UBC research engineer Bryn Crawford in a media release. “Often, they can’t leave them at an overnight shelter, and if they have an appointment, or end up at the hospital, they end up leaving all their belongings by the side of the road. Often, those items will go missing and then they have to start collecting them all over again.”
Undergraduate and graduate engineering students are doing research and design work for the carts.
The students expect to have a fleet of prototypes ready for field trials within approximately the next year and a half.
If all goes as planned, the buggies will be locally produced and marketed to cities all over North America as alternatives to shopping carts.
The production of the carts is also expected to employ some of the homeless people who have been involved in the project.