Portable Shelter for the Homeless by Charles Heydinger

The Portable Shelter for the Homeless by Charles Heydinger is one of the only designs I’ve found which integrates a folding frame into the design. This has probably been implemented for the following reasons:

  1. It provides additional comfort whilst sleeping
  2. It provides an air gap beneath the occupant, allowing:
    1. Water and moisture to remain on the ground and not penetrate the floor of the shelter
    2. The air gap acts as an insulation void between the occupant and the floor, preventing heat-loss from occupant through to floor via convection.
  3. Minimizes the need for an additional roll mat
  4. provides a structural frame for the shelter allowing it to be carried via rucksack straps with ease.
  5. Allows users to sleep OFF the floor/streets, which helps to maintain a little more dignity
  6. Provides room underneath the shelter to store possessions, food/drink, clothing etc
  7. Allows user to sit somewhere after they get up, which provides comfort when putting on shoes etc
  8. Protects the underside of the shelter from the ground, this means that less premium material can be used on the base.
  9. Allows for fail-safe shelter setup

The REAL question is… is it suitable for use on the streets? I personally don’t think so, see my Pros and Cons at the bottom of the page to find out why.

From the developer

Portable Shelter for the Homeless – Designed in collaboration with residents at Union Mission Shelter in Savannah, this portable field shelter was made to solve a variety of issues involved with being homeless and living on the streets. It is compact, camouflaged, weather resistant, portable, elevated from the ground, and has protective features. Made from inexpensive materials and utilizing a common beach chair, it is cheaper and more useful for its purpose than a tent. It deploys and folds up quickly, turning into a backpack.


  • The weight of the user keeps the shelter stable due to tensile stresses on the fabric (good: minimises weight, bad: see below)
  • Integration of folding frame provides many benefits listed above
  • Camouflage outer fabric blends in well with surrounding areas making it more inconspicuous
  • Good visability
  • Efficient use of space
  • Easy to unpack and pack up
  • Side opening design means that users don’t have to crawl or shuffle into it. Allows for easier access.
  • Weight savings due to minimal structural poles
  • Relatively lightweight which allows users to carry it on their back.


  • Hinged frame design potentially means that nothing can be stored inside the shelter when being packed down
  • Single skinned design means that condensation build up is likely
  • Side opening means you are exposed to the elements when you open it up. If you’re trying to pitch it in the rain then the rain will get inside the shelter, making for a moist nights sleep.
  • Frame increases the height of the design which increases visibility
  • Lack of supporting poles means tent is likely to flap around and create noise in the wind
  • Frame will have to be made from metal, more likely to break, bend or snap at joints when being used on the streets, the unit will not be carefully assembled or carefully used once on the street. Because frame is built into the design, there is little chance of it being repaired, once one part of the frame doesn’t work, the unit is almost rendered useless. To increase the strength of the unit to be used on the streets, you’ll have to use thicker metal throughout, leading to increased weight and lack of portability.
  • There is a lot of tension on the fabric, if somebody were to fall onto it or mistreat it in anyway then it’s likely the fabric would rip apart.
  • Due to having two fold-down legs, you must find perfectly level ground else the unit might become unstable.
  • It’s almost too roomy and accessible, meaning that there’s an increased likelihood that people will start to use it as a tent and live out of it, keeping it permanently up.
  • it has a large footprint
  • Might only be suitable for shorter people, a larger frame would be required for longer people which would increase the packed size.


It’s a good design in concept, but practically thinking I don’t think it would work on the streets. There would be far to many rips, tears, and broken frame elements to start with due to the design’s nature to rely on the fabric tension to keep the unit together.

The fact that you have to enter the shelter from the side/top, means that water ingress is more likely, as soon as it’s wet inside the shelter, you’ve lost the battle.

The folding frame doesn’t allow for a sleeping bag to be stored within the unit, which also means that it has to be carried separately and is more at risk of becoming wet.

Alper @ Arville Textiles ltd

A big thank you and shout out to Alper Yenilmez, Sales Manager from Arville Textile Ltd, who kindly sent down some high-performance tri-laminated Cordura fabric (free of charge!) to help make a start on the prototype for Project Bivouac. I’ve not yet had time to use the fabric as I’m still on initial prototyping, but over the next few weeks we will see their premium material in action, I hope to use it in our model which we field test out on the streets.

A little about Arville Textiles

With over 60 years of experience in technical textiles manufacturing, we’ve built a business with a solid foundation that meets the needs of our customers. We remain customer-focussed and will continue to invest in order to offer the best level of service and technical expertise possible for our customers

We focus on our customers’ needs for fabrics that perform in demanding applications and strive to deliver a ‘best in class’ approach in the field of technical textiles

It is this approach that has made Arville a success in our industry – we’re specialists at what we do. – http://www.arville.com/about-us

Shelter Pole Material and Diameter

Perhaps one of the most crucial elements of the shelter is finding the right material to use for the structural pole elements of the design.

After rushing in to buying SpeedFit plumbing pipe as a “cheap” and temporary means of creating my first prototype I realized that was a big mistake as the pipe almost relaxes into whatever shape you bend it into, which is great for plumbing, but not so great for making emergency crisis shelters!

This I found out after measuring out all of my poles, bending them into the correct shape, and putting together my first prototype frame, I came back the following day only to find that my shelter looked a little floppy and lacking rigidity – I discovered that the poles had relaxed into their stressed shape and lost all structural integrity…

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Brian’s Story – Homeless, Mental Health & Alcohol Documentary (BBC)

Brian’s Story – BBC Documentary Films 2015 – Homeless, Mental Health, Alcohol, Full Documentaries

Brian’s Story – a profoundly moving documentary film about a Cambridge educated journalist who, after a successful career, found himself struggling with homelessness and depression on the streets of London.

Documentary Notes

  • Brian Davis
  • graduated Cambridge at 21
  • published author 7 years later
  • mid 80’s was one of the best know journalists in advertising
  • aged 54 is now homeless and broke.
  • Has been sleeping rough for 7 months on the streets of London at the start of when the documentary was filmed.
  • A career spanning 30 years, he has wrote for most major national newspapers and was widely regarded as an expert in the advertising and film industries.
  • 1984 aged 39 he was made editor of the advertising journal ‘Campaign’ lasting only a week before walking out.
  • During the documentary, he managed to secure a job doing a written interview with Roman Polansky but has arranged to meet Polansky in Paris. Brian manages to raise money for the trip from an old friend in the industry.
  • Brian suffers from manic depression and seeks treatment sporadically but is dismissive of his illness.
  • Brian never made it to Paris after apparently being robbed of the remainder of his money after going to the pub.
  • Brian tries to raise more money by trading in some of his old books for money.
  • Brian finds an advertising agency to agreed to pay for a week in a bed and breakfast and Brian re-finds his enthusiasm for work and starts writing a number of poems.
  • Shortly after his week in the bed and breakfast, he receives £700 worth of benefits from the DSS. Three days later all his money was either spent or ‘lost’.
  • The following days he was arrested by police for leaving restaurants without paying.
  • A family relative has given Brian a place to live in Liverpool. He travels up there immediately, within a couple of days the house is a tip with beer cans and cigarettes strewn all over the place.
  • After 2 weeks of living in his own house the place is an absolute tip. It is clear that Brian struggles to look after himself.
  • Most of Brians benefit money has been spent on cigarettes and/or alcohol.
  • During the filming of the documentary the fire brigade were called into the house to put out a fire which was started because of unattended candles which Brian had lit prior to going out.
  • Social services had also started to visit Brian in his new home.
  • Another fire was started at Brians house, this time considerable damage was caused to the house.
  • Brian started to attend hospital voluntarily and was diagnosed with hyper-mania, a less intense form of mania. Brian stayed at hospital for 6 weeks whilst undergoing treatment.
  • Following Brians attendance at hospital, he was moved into hostel accommodation to assess whether he would be fit to move into a place on his own. He found it hard to settle there and returned back to hospital. A few days later, out of the blue, Brian left to London where he checked into a hotel and bought a bottle of vodka and a bottle of martini.
  • At some point during the night he got up, walked down a flight of stairs and onto a roof balcony.
  • 2 days later his body was discovered in a courtyard below. Brian had fell to his death.

Boulevard Angles – A journey into the ‘Other side of Tinseltown’

BOULEVARD ANGELS- Documentary. A journey into the 'Other side of Tinseltown'

A 1990 Documentary exploring the lives of the Homeless and runaway Teenagers living On The Streets Of Hollywood California.

Take a trip down the Boulevard of broken Dreams ‘Hollywood Boulevard’ and take a journey into the other side of Tinseltown.

As seen through the eyes of some of the homeless street people and runaway teenagers who head to ‘Glamor Capital’ of the USA. Hollywood California.

Boulevard Angels was the first ever documentary film by Filmmaker/Actor Stephen C Page. Shot on a budget of £500 awarded by Walsall Youth Arts the filmmaker set out to Hollywood with just a VHS video camera and spent time living homeless with some of the young people depicted in the film.

Boulevard Angels was the recipient of the ‘Century 21 Award’ awarded at the 1991 ‘Birmingham International Film Festival’.