KAMLOOPS - A plastic grocery bag doesn't make a very good mattress, but hundreds together can mean a drier, warmer and more comfortable night for people without a bed in Kamloops.
Shar Froese crochetes large rectangles out of grocery bags, creating sleeping matts for people who spend their nights on the cold, hard, damp ground. The mats are a hardy, reusable, mobile piece of gear people living rough can use, keeping them just off concrete or mud.
“I see these guys downtown, they’ve all got a story,” Froese says. “Some of them are there by choice, some of them not so.”
The Aberdeen resident spotted a Facebook post describing how to make sleeping mats out of plastic bags, the ones you get from retail stores. With the recent changes to the rules about recycling soft plastic in Kamloops and a chronic homeless population downtown, it seemed like the perfect project to help the city and environment.
“Somebody was doing it on Facebook, and I thought ‘That’s a good idea.’” she says. “I started looking around and learned a bit about it and tried it.”
Froese has some experience around the less fortunate. One of her daughters struggled with addictions.
“She ended up on the streets in Vancouver and even slept in dumpsters and whatever to stay warm,” she says. “She totally cleaned up her life, got away from the drugs and the alcohol.”
Now Froese, who works with Kamloops Hospice, is looking to provide some level of comfort to people in a similar situation in the city. Making the mats seemed like common sense to Froese, who saw the need to help and the potential to reuse something rather than toss it away.
While she's only completed a few, she plans on handing them directly to people she’s met.
“I’ll have it with me, and my grandson is going to help,” she says. “I have one fellow downtown that I met, a very nice man.”
She has a double-sized matt for a couple she's met. It's just waiting for a strap to be attached.
“If two of them are cold and want to snuggle, they can,” she says.
While she’s finished a few mats on her own, there’s hope her initiative will grow. She’s already started to teach others how to make the mats. Heather Johnson, a regular crocheter, met up with Froese last week to learn the ins and outs. Johnson figures making mats could replace her usual hobby of making dish clothes.
“I crochet all the time anyways, so when I travel, I crochet, when I watch TV I crochet,” Johnson says. “People said Shar makes these things and I thought, 'Well, if she’s making them, I usually do dishcloths, but I can do mats as easily as dishcloths.'”
“If we can use these for something instead of putting them into the recycling, why would you not?” she says.
Froese hopes more people in the community will get involved, and is looking for a local not-for-profit or seniors centre who might interested in creating a group to work on mats a couple hours a week. The work is well suited to an assembly line, with bags needing to be cut and turned into long pieces of ‘plan’ — plastic yarn.
Right now she’s collecting more bags to be turned into the mats. Each one takes at least 500, the larger ones take many more. Some community members are collecting bags for her, and she goes to collect them for now.
“If we could get half the town going, all the better,” she says. “I’ll do it as long as I can.”
If you'd like to help out, either to donate bags or to learn how to make the mats, Froese can be contact via Facebook.
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