Calling all crocheters: Group wants to turn plastic shopping bags into mats for homeless

A coalition of Winnipeg church groups has a plan to turn piles of plastic shopping bags into comfy sleeping mats homeless people.

1JustCity holding crochet event Dec. 3 to make plastic sleeping mats

Ray Eskritt holds plastic shopping bags, which she hopes people will crochet into sleeping mats for homeless people at an event on Dec. 3. (Ray Eskritt)

A coalition of Winnipeg church groups has a plan to turn piles of plastic shopping bags into comfy sleeping mats homeless people.

Ray Eskritt, communications and development officer for West Broadway Community Ministry, put out a call for Winnipeggers to donate their bags of bags. On Dec. 3, she's organizing a massive crochet party Augustine United Church on River Avenue, when crafty volunteers will spend the day crocheting mats to support the "Just a Warm Sleep" campaign.

"I though, I have so many crafty people in the community. I've got so many amazing grandmothers and mothers and gentlemen with these amazing crochet skills," she said.

The campaign is spearheaded by 1JustCity, which fundraises for church outreach programs in the city. After a woman froze to death on a downtown street last winter, the group opened the doors of Augustine United Church and invited people to sleep on the floor inside when temperatures fall below -10 C.

There are currently 15 mats for people to sleep on, but if more people than that show up, they have to sleep on the bare floor.

"That's not acceptable. People who are in that much need, need sleep, and if you're lying on a cold floor, you're not going to get a good quality sleep, you're not going to get the rest you need. And these people are struggling and they deserve a safe, comfortable sleep," Eskritt said.

Watch as people make plarn - or plastic yarn - from grocery bags. 1:17

It takes about 500 bags to make one mat, and an experienced person can crochet one in about a day, Eskritt said. The mats are about two-and-a-half feet by six feet, and look like "fluffy yoga mats" with open weaves, she said.

"You can roll up, they're lightweight, they dry really quickly, and then if they disintegrate over time, there's nothing lost."

The event on Dec. 3 starts at 1 p.m. 109 Pulford St.

With files from Erin Brohman