Felix Schmitz is helping to put the Sheltersuit Foundation on the map in Germany. He tells us his experience of spending a night outside in a Sheltersuit.
Currently living in Bayreuth in the north of the state of Bavaria, Felix studies Philosophy & Economics at the University of Bayreuth.
How did you hear about the Sheltersuit Foundation?
Felix: "Every year at my university we organize a conference focused on the future: the Bayreuther Dialogue. The theme differs from year to year, but it always lies at the intersection of society, philosophy, politics and economics. I am part of the team that shapes the conference program."
Social entrepreneurs that set an example
There is an award involved as well?
Felix: "Indeed, the “Vorbildpreis” (Role Model Prize). The award celebrates people who have distinguished themselves on the basis of their social commitment. The winner is always a role model, an inspiration to others. For example, Nobel laureate Muhammad Yunus has won the Vorbild Prize in the past for his pioneering work in the field of microcredit and microfinance."
How did you meet Bas Timmer?
“Bas received the prize in 2019. I came across him and the Sheltersuit Foundation by searching online for "young social entrepreneurs". As a team composing the program for the Bayreuther Dialogue, we felt it was important to pay attention to the growing homeless issues and the distribution of Sheltersuits.”
But it didn't stop there?
“To get a better picture of the Sheltersuit Foundation, I traveled to Enschede. There I met many enthusiastic employees and volunteers in the office and in the sewing workshop. Of course I also collected money for the Sheltersuit Sleep Out!
I am now busy working on expanding the Foundation's network in Germany. I establish contacts with German homeless organizations, such as shelters and walk-in centers. It is important that the Sheltersuits end up with homeless people who need the suits the most. I am also committed to raising money and collecting materials so that we can produce more Sheltersuits.
To make a long story short. Together we try to get a foothold in Germany, to bring Sheltersuit Foundation to the attention of various media.”
Experiencing a night sleeping rough
You spent one night outside in a Sheltersuit, what was that like?
Felix: “I gradually started to dedicate myself to the Sheltersuit Foundation. I have now spoken to many homeless people, listened to their stories. Still, I wanted to spend one night outside myself to get a feel for what these people go through on a daily basis. Always having to find a place to sleep, brave the cold, survive the nights. Last winter I slept outside with Paulina, who is also involved in the Bayreuther Dialogue.
During our search for a place to sleep we got a tip from a homeless person, but in the end we ended up at a dry fountain in a park. The bottom was covered with a bed made of autumn leaves, which made us relatively comfortable. Of course that was mainly due to the Sheltersuits. The Bavarian public broadcaster BR24 even took notice of it.”
See video below.
What did you remember most about this night?
Felix: “I can now imagine slightly better what it must be like when you suddenly have lost your familiar home. That must be such a profound event in someone's life. For me, time on the street passed very slowly. I also understand now how important it is to have a fixed routine.
It was quite cold that night, but again, the Sheltersuit kept us warm. I even took off my shoes in it, without getting cold feet.”
Sheltersuits for the homeless around Bayreuth
Have you already distributed Sheltersuits?
"Certainly! Haus Cosima, a temporary shelter for the homeless, is located in Bayreuth. The shelter is run by the municipality and a church. Staff at Haus Cosima are always available to assist the homeless. Naturally, the employees know the people who live on the street in the region. That is why they will soon receive ten Sheltersuits that they can distribute at their own discretion.”
“Homelessness is currently an important topic in Germany. Politics and media really pick up on the subject. I myself am determined to put the Sheltersuit Foundation on the map in Germany. The first steps have now been taken. Our goals are clear: to distribute more Sheltersuits, to collect more materials for the production, and to get more regular and periodic donations.”
Thank you Felix for your effort and support of the Sheltersuit Foundation.