Inflatable $5 shelters - Good or bad for homeless people? - Why?

Tom Boland (
Thu, 30 Dec 1999 12:29:44 -0800 (PST)

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$5 tents an MIT student designed for homeless people to use near heat
grates are drawing some heat in NYC.

Do you think the spread of such "inflatable shelters" would help or hurt
homeless people?  Why?

See below for 2 related articles:$stargeneral/htm/x_dv.htm/_ibyx/cg0302
FWD  Associated Press - AP Wire Service - Dec 29, 1999 00:33


NEW YORK (AP) _ They look a bit like offspring of the Goodyear
blimp, but there's some doubt they'll ever get off the ground, in a
manner of speaking.

The inflatable plastic tents designed by Michael Rakowitz as
street shelters for the homeless are not being warmly received in
Gotham _ either by the police or homeless advocates.

Even their creator concedes that the clear plastic tents, big
enough for one or perhaps two people, are only a stopgap measure,
but one more acceptable than cardboard boxes and bundles of

``I am not an urban planner and I'm not someone who can serve as
a social worker,'' Rakowitz, 26, told The New York Times. ``I'm an
artist, and this the only way I can act.''

Detective Walter Burns, a police department spokesman, said
Rakowitz was doing ``a nice thing, designing these tents,'' but
pointed out that city ordinances bar camping on public property or

Mary Brosnahan, executive director of the Coalition for the
Homeless, told The Times that the tents ``cannot be dismissed out
of hand'' as a way to help homeless people ``survive through the
night,'' but were not a long-term solution.

``I don't think they'll last more than a few hours, except in
the most hidden, remote places of our city,'' she said.

Rakowitz, a former Massachusetts Institute of Technology
graduate student who now lives in Queens and lectures at the State
University College at Purchase, said he designed the inflatable
tents several years ago, after Harvard University put bars on
campus heating grates to keep homeless people from bedding down in
cold weather.

About 15 tents were used in Boston and Cambridge, Mass., in the
winter of 1997-98, and Rakowitz now hopes to provide them for some
homeless people in New York.

The tents cost about $5 for materials and were designed to
certain specifications of would-be users _ clear instead of opaque
plastic, Velcro fasteners, places to stow gloves and other items, a
plastic tote bag for carrying.

Heated air from a sidewalk grate can circulate through the ribs
of the tent, creating warmth without the danger of the occupant
being burned.

Rakowitz said his New York debut was planned last year and only
coincidentally comes amid public wrangling over Mayor Rudolph
Giuliani's toughened policy toward the homeless sleeping on the

``It's good that the issue is being discussed,'' he said. ``He
(Giuliani) is agitational, just as this project is.''

AP-ES-12-29-99 0133EST
Received  Id AP9936349F9115B on Dec 29 1999 18:17

FWD  ABC News Wire - December 27, 1999 - 3:08 PM EST

Inflatable Homeless Shelters Coming - (NEW YORK) -- Inflatable shelters for
the homeless are coming to New York City. The plastic intake tube can hook
up to an air duct or steam grate. The creator of the shelters has already
provided homes for 15 people in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts. In New
York, however, using the tents on city property can be considered illegal
camping. And using them on private property without permission could be


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