At The HomeMore Project, it has always been imperative to me to be transparent about everything within the organization. For today’s takeaway, I wanted to address and highlight some of the obstacles and feedback that we have had for our Makeshift Traveler.
As you know, the Makeshift Traveler is a product that The HomeMore Project spent over a year developing. This includes the computer renderings, prototyping, testing, and eventually, the manufacturing infrastructure to produce these for those unhoused. Therefore, inevitably, there have been a few challenges from the product itself, along with the process of distribution. We have identified a few short-term, quick-fixable obstacles that we have faced as well as some longer-term, next-iteration improvements that we will be making. We currently have roughly 350 Makeshift Travelers on hand, and with a goal to distribute 1,000 in 2023, the following order of Travelers will include some of these noted improvements. This next iteration production round will likely be received in Fall 2023.
Short-term: Immediate and Ongoing Fixes
Longer screws: One fix we quickly made upon beginning distribution is using different screws to hold the solar panel in place. At first, used 8 1/2 inch screws; we adjusted to a longer screw at 8 3/4 inches. We have not received any feedback of any screws falling out that were 8 3/4 inches.
Stuck Zippers: It has been communicated that the double zippers sometimes get stuck. Therefore, we are communicating during distribution to ensure that the bag is not packed too full, and there is a slight caution when unzipping and zipping the backpack.
Easier access to charging port: A minor obstacle, the waterproof charging port cover is relatively hard to open. Our distribution team is loosening it before distribution and communicating how to open it to recipients.
Requested Distribution (Improving Navigation on our Website): Many individuals experiencing homelessness, especially after our CBS story aired, have reached out asking if they can get a Makeshift Traveler. During January, we are working on improving the navigation of our website to make it more friendly for those unhoused visiting our website. Sometimes recipients have minimal time, whether borrowing someone’s phone at the library or their phone close to dying; therefore, it is vital that our navigation is simplistic yet effective.
Long-term: Next Makeshift Traveler Iteration and Production Run
Weight of Backpack: Including all of the additional added tools and items, the Traveler weighs roughly 7.8 pounds. We aim to get this down to 5.5 pounds in the next version to make it easier to carry.
Color Options: The green color is a staple appearance, but future Makeshift Travelers will be in more sleek, subtle colors such as dark olive green, brown, and black to eliminate the stereotype of only unhoused using our backpack. Additionally, it will draw less attention as our recipients are using them.
Adjusting Shape with Curved Edges of Backpack: We have received feedback about the pack’s bottom and top edges being relatively rigid when in tight spaces or going through doors. We will attempt to fix the rough, pointy edges and instead have a more forgiving, padded edge to make navigation easier.
Cover for Solar Panel and Pillow: We will be adding a cover to protect and make less noticeable to Solar Panel and Pillow functions of the Makeshift Traveler.
Improved Zippers: We have had some zippers bust due to excessive usage or overpacked backpacks. Therefore, we will be revisiting the zipper system.
Rechargeable Battery to be Removed Option: The battery that stores power from the solar panel cannot be charged from an outlet if someone has access. The next iteration will include removing the battery and charging using an outlet.
Storage Compartments Inside Unit: Currently, the inside of the backpack is open except for a laptop slip. We will include removable and adjustable Velcro shelves to store belongings more easily.
Updated Informational Brochure: Based on feedback about the most requested resources, our updated Informational Brochure will list out ID/Driver License locations, cellphone locations, supportive/transitional housing sites, and permanent housing contact lists, in addition to the partnerships that we currently have with over 15 organizations.
Mitigating theft: One great challenge, in which I wrote about on Takeaway #1, is the amount of theft taking place, especially with our Makeshift Traveler. We are currently working on making security improvements to mitigate theft.
Overall, we recognize our unique position as a nonprofit organization that has designed a product. We are committed and patient in developing and improving the Makeshift Traveler for those experiencing homelessness. Thank you for your feedback and support!