Thursday April 8 2021

That time our insulating membrane trimmings were turned into sleeping bags

As the cold season was falling upon us, the crew at Sollertia was joining forces with CAREMontreal for the creation and distribution of 41 sleeping bags, specially designed to help Montreal’s homeless people brave the harsh winter. Clearly, the challenges inherent to homelessness have been intensified and further complicated by the COVID-19 pandemic, and Sollertia is proud of the amazing work carried out by its passionate team of volunteers, who did not hesitate to lend a hand with this modest project.

These unique sleeping bags were tailored from trimmings of the Collège Français de Longueuil’s new multi-sports centre’s inflatable dome, which was erected by Sollertia in the fall of 2020. The idea came to Raïs Zaidi, installer at Sollertia and also cook and food distributor at CAREMontreal, as he was cutting the pieces of membrane for the dome. “I could see the huge amount of scraps coming out of there, and it was obvious to me,” says Raïs. “This is insulation material and there are people freezing out there in their tents, so I figured we should put the two together.” At the time, the Notre-Dame Street camp was making headlines, as people were becoming aware of the extent of the housing crisis in Montreal, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Raïs, also known by his activist name The Green Pirate, ran his idea by site manager Cédrick Le Bel, who had no trouble whatsoever convincing Claude Le Bel (president) and Danielle Cormier (special projects manager) to move forward with the project. The two immediately contacted Michel Monette, director and founder of CAREMontreal, and the ball got rolling at the beginning of December.

After a short period of prototype development, followed by field tests carried out during the holidays, some of Sollertia’s employees formed an intensive ad hoc production crew on January 27th and 28th for the urgent manufacturing of the sleeping bags (31 singles and 10 doubles). Finally, on the evening of January 28th, 2021, CAREMontreal began handing them out to people experiencing homelessness.

Now that winter is drawing to a close, it will soon be time to put away the sleeping bags and take stock. We plan to take advantage of the good weather to collect testimonials and recommendations from users in order to refine the design and modify the sleeping bags if need be, or even produce new ones, in time for next winter.

This project allowed for the repurposing of 2,672 square feet of insulating membrane, keeping it out of our landfills, while giving a helping hand to fellow citizens in a vulnerable position. Sollertia would like to thank the Collège Français de Longueuil, the Green Pirates, CAREMontreal and its own inspiring team for their participation.