Vital People: Turtlepod Project in Campbell River could help the homeless feel safe


Shawn Decaire is excited to show us one of the turtlepod prototypes for people experiencing homelessness in Campbell River.

The mobile sleep pod has a novel design. It’s compact but expandable, insulated, and safe.

“It’s not to end homelessness, it’s to take people from unstable tents and pushing around a shopping cart,” explains Shawn, who works for the Laichwiltach Family Life Society.

“Unfortunately, the homeless people are getting to the point they’re being shot at by BB guns and rocks are being thrown at them, and knives cut through their tents while they’re sleeping in them.”

The turtlepods aren’t just functional but also works of art, painted by Shawn.

“For the users, it’s safety, comfort, accessibility, and just giving them the ability to have a sleep without being attacked or the elements taking hold of them,” Shawn says.  “And then for the rest of the public, it’s to look at something beautiful.”

“There’s so much talk about reconciliation in our communities, but I think what he’s doing is a really good demonstration of how we can celebrate culture and take it forward to make a difference in the community,” says Michaela Arruda, executive director of the Campbell River Community Foundation.

Shawn knows firsthand how hard it is to live on the street, and he just celebrated 20 years of being sober.

“I’ve been a child of historical trauma,” Shawn explains. “My grandfather was in a residential school so there was a lot of things through my family’s history that introduced me to alcoholism and my oldest sibling introduced me to drugs when I was just into a double-digit age.”

After overcoming his demons, Shawn’s dedicated his life to giving back and he helped open Kwesa Place, a warming centre in downtown Campbell River.

“It’s just a place to give homeless people the ability to get clean, to get showered, do laundry, get out of the elements, and especially right now, get away from the stigmatism that’s taking place around the homeless community,” Shawn says.

As for the Turtlepod Project, Shawn says he created the artwork to show people that they matter.

They’re currently building a third prototype and Shawn wants to take the initiative to other cities to help more people.

“It’s because everybody has given up on them they don’t have a lot of motivation to change, and it’s really up to us to encourage them and give them that hope,” he says. “My biggest gift is to uplift was many people as I can.”

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