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You can call it home

Local invention gives street people transportation and storage by day, shelter by night

Victoria Times Colonist
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist
Csaba Csizmazia shows off Tony Hoar's bike-trailer design for the homeless that opens to a full tent with cot, above, for sleeping, ...
CREDIT: Darren Stone, Times Colonist
... and folds into a compact trailer, for day use.

Tony Hoar's invention of a tent-trailer for bicycles could make shopping carts obsolete, at least for many of Victoria's homeless who use them to carry their stuff.

Hoar is a Victoria inventor and cyclist who once took part in the Tour de France. He also designed and built Rick Hansen's wheelchairs for his 1985 Man in Motion tour. Now he has a business creating bicycle-pulled trailers to tow everything from dogs to soup and nuts.

Hoar's latest invention gives the homeless like Csaba Csizmazia a real lift.

When under tow, the trailer provides a flat space for the homeless to collect recyclable bottles or carry their belongings. At night, the wheels come off and it folds out into a tent, with an elevated cot built into the base.

"There's no maintenance, it's cheaper than a room," said Hoar.

"I'm sure Thrifty would love to sponsor one rather than having people stealing their carts."

Csizmazia, 44, slept in a prototype tent-trailer twice in the last two weeks and loved it. "It's excellent. I love the cot idea -- it's real comfy, eh? The whole idea I like."

"Usually I lay cardboard down in a sheltered spot. This is way better. I don't need nothin', I got it all with me."

The trailer was a big hit for Csizmazia and Tony Richards, another homeless man, who also tried out the prototype.

It's a better option than sleeping in overcrowded shelters, said Csizmazia, who lives off whatever he earns on the street.

"Even if I was to get a welfare cheque, am I going to go live in some flea-bitten place?," he said, adding that the tent-trailer means he "lives better in the street than I would in those downtown shelters."

Richards, 36, used the tent-trailer for most of the last two weeks. He calls it "the greatest thing anybody has ever done. You're off the ground, you can put your stuff inside. You're warm and out of the wind. It only takes a couple minutes to put up, a couple minutes to bring down. The police don't harass you.

"It could make the homeless people's lives a lot better. You're definitely absolutely warm."

It's a great idea but there's a hitch. The prototype cost Hoar $800 to build, and that's way too pricey for most panhandlers. Richards sees possibilities, though.

"If you were to mass produce these things and get them at cheaper cost, I would be able to afford one. I'd be willing to pay $200 to $300, most definitely and a lot of people on the street would be willing to do that, too."

Hoar said mass production could bring the price down to $450 or $500. Hoar said he has heard from church groups expressing interest in buying units on behalf of the homeless.

The loaned tent-trailer has proved its worth for Richards, who said it's become a thing of pride.

"It's yours -- you can call it home. I think it's a great idea, I really do."

 Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005

Copyright © 2005 CanWest Interactive, a division of CanWest MediaWorks Publications, Inc.. All rights reserved.

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