Nights for a homeless East London man and his pet mouse Jezebel have become much warmer since he received his padded plastic and newspaper Hugger sleeping bag from the Port Rex Lions.
Frans Venter, 39, who sleeps on the stoep of a Southernwood business or any other shelter he can find in the city centre, has been using a prototype of the Hugger for a month and raved about its insulating and comfort qualities.
“I had blankets but they were stolen twice and then I met Richard Patten who is a member of the Lions because I sometimes sleep on his stoep. He showed me this brilliant idea and asked for my input. At first I wondered if it would keep me warm, but it is surprisingly warm,” said Venter, who keeps his tiny mouse in the sleeve of a spare jersey in a carrier bag.
“On the night it rained I just put Jezebel and my bag of clothes into the Hugger and we all stayed dry. “And on warm nights I lie on top of the bag and use it as a mattress.”
Port Rex Lions president Leslie Human said the Hugger was the brainchild of a Cape Town Lions club and that he had been inspired to bring the idea to East London after a visit to the Mother City.
“There are so many homeless people in East London. We see them when we hand out sandwiches and soup twice a month,” Human said.
“The sleeping bags are called Snugglers by the Cape Town Lions, but we are calling ours “the Hugger” because it makes people feel secure about themselves and their possessions. It is especially designed large enough to store the few things they own while they are sleeping. It’s an amazing invention.”
The Hugger is a simple but ingenious design which folds into a compact, tote-friendly square. It incorporates two 2m x 1m recycled plastic bags, 24 tabloid size newspapers – the Saturday Dispatch and GO! and Express are perfect – and a few metres of duct tape.
Human said Huggers were also a green solution because they were made from recycled plastic and re-purposed newspapers.
The Port Rex Lions currently have enough material to make 125 sleeping bags and will gather for a Hugger-making workshop along with Hudson Park Primary junior Lions – or Cubs – early next month.
“Then we will distribute them free, along with soup and sandwiches, to the city’s homeless,” Human said. “This will be an ongoing project and we will make them before winter every year.”
Said Venter: “Something like this is brilliant because there are no shelters here for us to go spend the night.
“Jezebel loves it in there. And when I go out looking for jobs during the day I just fold my Hugger up, put it in my bag and take it with me.” — firstname.lastname@example.org