The winter months bring a lot of joy, but it’s also a season when we experience many struggles. Although we have our houses to shield us from the freezing temperatures outside, we still need the help of heaters and hot showers to keep us warm because it’s just so freaking cold.
For those without a roof over their head, it could be 10 times harder.
That’s what French engineer Geoffroy de Reynal realized when he returned to France after working abroad as a quality manager on wind turbine construction sites.
“I was living abroad in Montenegro for a year, and there are not much people living outside there. When I came back to France, I was surprised by the number of homeless in the streets, so I decided to come up with an idea to help them,” he said.
Borne out of that idea was the Iglou, a portable igloo-like structure that the homeless can use as a shelter during the frigid winter months.
This simple yet functional shelter is made from Polyethylene foam, a material that can retain body heat. It can be assembled in seconds without any loose parts and is very lightweight and foldable, making it easy to transport from place to place.
The interior of the Iglou is lined with an aluminum coating to make it fire-resistant. This way, forgotten cigarette butts or toppled gas burners wouldn’t be a safety hazard.
According to De Reynal, the temperatures inside the shelters are “about 60 degrees Fahrenheit higher than outside.” The igloos are also waterproof.
In 2018, the brilliant engineer built his first igloos using his own money. He then launched an online crowdfunding campaign, where he ended up receiving around $20,000, which was more than he expected.
“Using my resources and the money from the crowdfunding campaign, I built 20 igloos prototypes this winter and distributed 10 in Bordeaux, and 10 additional in Paris,” he said at the time.
Océane and Benjamin, a couple who had been living in the outskirts of Paris, were among the recipients of the Iglou.
“It’s much easier to fall asleep at night, to wake up in the morning,” Océane said of the innovation. “We have much better nights inside the igloo shelter.”
According to the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies, over 12,000 people are sleeping on the streets of France. The country has seen an increase in its homeless population over the past decade due to the effects of the global financial crisis and the arrival of migrants from the Middle East and Africa.
Although the igloos have been helping many displaced people in France, De Reynal says he doesn’t see it as a permanent solution to the country’s growing homelessness crisis.
“I am not trying to replace emergency accommodations,” he explained. “I am just trying to make life a bit less difficult for homeless people. Having one of these igloos does not mean that you are not a homeless anymore.”
The igloos have been benefiting many homeless people during the past three winters. De Reynal now hopes to produce these shelters on a large scale and introduce improvements, such as wheels for easier transportation and larger igloos that can accommodate families.
He also hopes to bring the Iglou to the United States, where homelessness is on the rise. He says cities like Chicago can benefit from these shelters because it gets cold and snowy there during the winter.
While these igloos don’t solve the root of the problem, they’re a useful innovation to homeless people who long for privacy and security, especially during the colder months.
What do you think of the Iglou? Let us know in the comments!