Geoffroy de Reynal, a French engineer, designed igloo shelters for the homeless. Unlike the flimsy shelters, many unfortunate people have no choice but to occupy, these “igloos” are made from Polyethylene foam that retains body heat. They are also covered in aluminum foil. Therefore, “the temperatures inside the igloos are about 60 degrees Fahrenheit higher than outside. And it is also waterproof,” de Reynal explained.
Christian, 58, uses the shelter to keep out the elements in the suburbs of Paris. “This igloo is perfect, absolutely perfect!” he said. “I sometimes have to sleep without my jacket because it is so warm in here.”
Geoffroy de Reynal Designs Igloo Shelters for the Homeless
De Reynal constructed the first igloos with his own money. When that succeeded, he crowd-funded and received $20,000. He had never expected to attain that much for his project, but it helped him tremendously.
“Using my resources and the money from the crowd funding campaign, I built 20 igloos prototypes this winter and distributed 10 in Bordeaux, and 10 additional in Paris,” he said.
He was inspired to help the homeless community after moving back to France. “I was living abroad in Montenegro for a year, and there are not much people living outside there. When I came back to France, I was surprised by the number of homeless in the streets, so I decided to come up with an idea to help them.” 
The igloo shelter is foldable and compact, which meant it could be built almost instantly with no loose parts needed. Inside is warm and dry, even through the winter. In fact, it uses the user’s body heat to warm up in the interior up to 20ºC above the temperature outdoors. It’s also fire-resistant, making cigarette butts and gas burners a non-issue.
“In most cities, the official homeless help program is saturated, even in wintertime. Every one of us have seen people unsheltered sleeping straight under the snow,” Reynal said.
The Rising Issue of Homelessness
In France, the homeless population is rising. A 2012 survey found that there are at least 141,500 homeless persons living there. This is an over 50% increase from the population of 93,000 in 2001. To make matters worse, about one in ten homeless persons sleep without shelters in areas unequipped for proper sleeping arrangements. Receiving a shelter such as de Reynal’s igloo could be a matter of life and death to them. 
De Reynal doesn’t believe that his igloos could permanently solve the issue. Instead, they are intended to ease the suffering of those down on their luck until their situation improves. More long-term solutions are needed to accomplish this.
“I am not trying to replace emergency accommodations,” he said. “I am just trying to make life a bit less difficult for homeless people. Having one of these igloos does not mean that you are not a homeless anymore.”
The organization Actionfroid helps homeless people by providing clothes and food, and now igloo shelters. The president and founder of Actionfroid, Laurent Eyzat, has received good feedback on the shelters.
For instance, Océane and Benjamin have been living on the outskirts of Paris. The 21-year-olds were grateful for their igloo shelter.
“It’s much easier to fall asleep at night, to wake up in the morning,” Océane said. “We have much better nights inside the igloo shelter.” 
Sharing Igloo Shelters Around the World
That was back in 2018 and de Reynal was bursting with ideas for the future. “My ambition is to produce these igloos on a large scale, hundreds or even thousands of them,” he said. “I also want to make some improvements: putting wheels under the igloos to make them easier to transport, or build larger modular igloos for families.”
For instance, he plans to go global with his design. “Develop the igloos abroad. In countries like Poland, there are lots of people living in the streets. In the U.S., igloos could be very useful in cities such as Chicago that are very cold and snowy during the winter.”
Over the past two years, the igloo shelters for the homeless has expanded into the Czech Republic, but that is just the beginning. De Reynal hopes to help suffering people all over the world by making their winters just a little easier to endure. 
We need more creative and innovative people like Geoffroy de Reynal to take on the rising issue of homelessness. Hopefully, the next entrepreneur or two could form a permanent solution for the masses of people struggling for basic needs, or at least, another way to ease their difficulties until they get back on their feet.
- “Iglou is an insulated, waterproof shelter for homeless people.” Design Boom.
- “The homeless in France.” INED. March 2015
- “Igloos provide shelter for homeless population in France.” ABC News. Paul Pradler. March 8, 2018
- “French engineer created ‘igloos’ so that homeless people can have a warm place to sleep.” Good. Tod Perry. March 18, 2020.