Street Sleeper founder Oliver Brain returned from working in the UK and after four years away from home, felt disconnected from his community. Walking around Cape Town’s Central Business District, he noticed that he was not the only one who felt this way – the homeless, of which there are thousands in the Central Business District alone, appeared to be neglected and ignored by mainstream society, completely disconnecting them from “ordinary” life and common social practices. Oliver decided to use his passion for engineering and design to build a product that would help the homeless, focusing on one basic element: the provision of temporary shelter. He gave himself two weeks to come up with a sleeping bag design that could be sustainable sourced and noticing that our city is plastered with PVC advertising billboards that aren’t recyclable, he knew he’d found his material. These billboards are plentiful, flexible, waterproof, strong and just asking to be upcycled. Once he had the design and material “in the bag”, he used his grandma’s sewing machine to make the first prototype, breaking many a needle in the process, and so the first Street Sleeper was made.

Street Sleeper’s mission

  • to provide an immediate and transportable form of shelter
  • to employ and upskill marginalised members of our society
  • to debunk the stigma surrounding homelessness by fostering meaningful engagement between the givers and receivers of bags

Street Sleeper currently upcycles advertising billboards destined for landfill into survival sleeping bags and distributes them across South Africa. At the same time they share stories of homelessness that challenge the mis-perceptions around what it means to be homeless. This non-profit company is transforming the negative impact of waste into immediate relief for those living on the street while promoting social upliftment through dialogue and storytelling.

“My Research Internship at Street Sleeper was possibly one of the best things I could have done for myself. I grew by being placed outside of my comfort zone, whilst being able to help those who are less fortunate. The experience has left me feeling fulfilled in many ways and has given me a new and positive perspective on life.”
Kelsey Holmes, South Africa, Research Internship

More information:

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Research Internship

Internships with Street Sleeper

This internship is the perfect opportunity for a summer internship as it’s only available in the period May-August.

Communications-Research Internship

  • Destination Cape Town, South Africa
  • Type of Organisation Social NGO
  • Work Focus Social Media, Storytelling, Writing, Research
  • Length of Internship Minimum of 2 months
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