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Teens create genius portable shelter for the homeless after losing uncle to the streets

Montreal-based students Pasha Jones and Adrianna Vutrano came up with an inventive way to positively help the city's homeless.

Teens create genius portable shelter for the homeless after losing uncle to the streets
Image Source: Homeless Encampment In Washington DC Park Refuses Order To Move. WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 20. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

When you are homeless, you don't really have anywhere to leave your belongings without the fear of theft as you move around. This becomes an additional worry for those without homes — lugging around heavy items or risking them being stolen. Therefore, two inventive teenagers decided to come up with a solution to this problem. Montreal-based high school students Pasha Jones and Adrianna Vutrano engineered a backpack that turns into a tent for their school science fair project, CBC reports. For Jones, the project was personal, as she lost one of her uncles due to homelessness.


"My uncle actually died on the streets," Jones explained in an interview with CBC. "Due to mental illness, he became homeless and started living on the streets." His death was mainly caused by Montreal's unbearably cold weather. When the homeless have nowhere warm to sleep, they usually succumb to the dangerously cold temperatures. Therefore, the two 15-year-old students knew they wanted to come up with an invention that could help the homeless. Therefore, the portable homeless shelter was born. The backpack costs about $20 to make, but Jones and Vutrano hope that a non-profit organization will help them mass-produce the invention so it can be manufactured for cheaper.


The ingenious backpack is especially helpful for those who do not have access to a shelter or choose not to go to one. As Jones stated, "Not everyone will choose to go into a shelter." Thus, a portable form of shelter can become a really helpful tool. The backpack-tent hybrid is created with materials the duo purchased at a local hardware store, including hula-hoops, rope, metal hangers, and tarp. The final backpack weighs two kilograms and is lined with a space blanket to ensure the user stays warm during Canada's colder winter months. Vutrano described, "It's like an accordion. It contracts and expands. It expands up to around six feet. In the winter, it's six to seven degrees warmer inside."

However, the backpack doesn't overheat during the warm summer months. That's because the teens have made the tent reversible. "We want to make the portable house reversible, so the space blanket is on top," Vutrano stated. "The sun would reflect off of it, so it's cooler inside." In order to make sure their invention worked as per plan, the teen scientists did some tests. Jones said, "We tested outside at zero-degree weather and we stayed in all day. It's super comfortable." Because of Canada's large homeless population, Jones and Vutrano wanted to make something that could actually have a positive impact on society. Jones said, "We wanted to create something that they could use that can actually help them stay safe on the streets without having to use the shelters."

Their project, unsurprisingly, made an incredible impression on the judges at the science fair. The impressive duo went on to showcase their invention at the Canada-Wide Science Fair held in New Brunswick where they had a blast. "It was a great experience," said Jones. Vutrano added, "It was so much fun, like [a] once-in-a-lifetime experience." Now, they are looking for partners to take their project to the streets. They believe that if they were able to produce their backpacks on a mass scale, they would be able to cut the cost of production in half, down to $10 per backpack. "Right now it's made out of hula hoops and tarp that we bought out of our hardware store," explained Jones. "We just need someone that could help us create it at a mass volume." If a government agency, company, or non-profit steps up, this could be a way to transform the lives of many homeless individuals in Canada.


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