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B.C. man designs ‘turtlepods’ - mobile personal shelter prototypes to assist the unhoused

‘I think of it as supporting urban nomadism.’
Werner Karsten shows one of the two turtlepod prototypes he brought with him for display at the Walk With Me event in Courtenay, on Nov. 26. The insulated, mobile pods are intended to provide safe shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Photo by Terry Farrell

Werner Karsten has combined his carpentry skills, his compassion for others, and some spare time to create mobile personal shelter units as a possible initiative in the battle against homelessness.

Turtlepods are mobile, insulated personal shelters, designed to offer protection from the elements for the unhoused. Karsten had two prototypes on display in front of the Comox Valley Art Gallery on Nov. 26 - one about seven feet long, with large wheels for easy transport, the other about four feet long, with an extending end to create a bed-length pod.

“This is the third design so far,” said Karsten, referring to the longer one with larger wheels. “We are just trying to explore different strategies for accomplishing the task. The idea is just to create a mobile shelter - I think of it as supporting urban nomadism. It’s an insulated space that can keep people warm and safe in the winter, easily moveable. Hopefully we can create a situation where we could have little communities of them, if we work together.”

The pods are made of marine plywood,and include fire retardant insulation, ventillation, and emergency exit options. Karsten said while he built the prototypes by hand, they could be put together much more quicikly with the proper equipment.

“It is designed to be built with the help of CNC (computer numerical control) machinery, which would make it much, much faster (to build),” said Karsten. “I would like to make another protype using the CNC machinery to see how much more efficient it is. There is a possibility that we could put these out as kits, and then other people could build them - a flat pack with all the pieces already cut and ready for assembly.”

Karsten said if all goes according to plan, they will eventually apply for grant money to get the project to the next stage of production.

“We are hoping for it. We would have to convince somebody that it’s a good investment.”

The vision is to “explore possibilities for producing a series of Pods in Comox Valley, Campbell River and beyond.”

There is a web page on the Walk With Me site,

The Walk With Me project involves a 45-minute group walk while listening to audio stories narrated by people whose lives have been impacted by the toxic drug poisoning crisis – including people who use drugs, family members and front-line workers.

ALSO: Minister of mental health and addictions among participants at Walk With Me event
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This turtlepod prototype is short, with a pull-out part to accommodate sleeping. The insulated, mobile pods are intended to provide safe shelter for those experiencing homelessness. Photo by Terry Farrell

Terry Farrell

About the Author: Terry Farrell

Terry returned to Black Press in 2014, after seven years at a daily publication in Alberta. He brings 24 years of editorial experience to Comox Valley Record...
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