British Columbia

Shopping cart replacement developed for homeless people

A Kelowna church has teamed up with University of British Columbia engineering students to produce a cart for homeless that's designed to replace the shopping carts that many people living on the streets currently use.

UBC-Okanagan engineering students produce prototype that will be tested on Kelowna's streets

Metro Community Church volunteer Dean Schaffler and director of initiatives Devon Siebenga with a cart specifically designed for storing and transporting belongings for people living on Kelowna's streets (Brady Strachan/CBC)

A Kelowna, B.C., church has teamed up with University of British Columbia engineering students to produce a cart for homeless people to store and transport their belongings..

The cart is designed to be a better alternative for people living on the streets than the shopping carts many currently use.

"Right now, there is a lot of anxiety for our clients around protecting their goods and keeping them out of the weather," said Devon Siebenga, the director of Metro Initiatives with Metro Community Church.

"A lot of our people spend most of their days worrying about or trying to take care of or track down their stuff, so we want to help remove that stress."

The idea of the carts came from Metro Community's clients.

This version of the cart comes with hand brakes that lock when the user is not pushing the cart (Brady Stachan/CBC)

The church sought input from the RCMP and the City of Kelowna's bylaw department.

It then collaborated with UBC-Okanagan's School of Engineering, where students and staff designed the cart and produced a prototype.

The goal was to make a cart that was strong, yet light that can be easily manipulated along city streets, according to UBC project engineer Bryn Crawford.

"It's gone through several design stages with materials such as plywood, aluminum tubing and fibreglass," Crawford said.

"Even this first model is significantly different and a bit heavier than the next few we've got on the go."

The current prototype is made of plywood and designed composites. It has two bicycle-style wheels on the back equipped with hand brakes and a hitch that allows it to be towed as a bicycle trailer.

The cart has a GPS unit for tracking, shelving inside the compartments and it can be dismantled into three lockable sections.

It's the first of several carts UBC's engineering students will produce over the next two months.

The carts will then be paired up with Metro Community clients who will put them to test on the streets of Kelowna and offer up suggestions for better design or functionality, said Siebenga.

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