Published: 12:27, 25 June 2021
| Updated: 12:28, 25 June 2021
A young designer has come up with an innovative and practical way to help the homeless.
As part of a university project, Alec Conway wanted to make a difference to society and decided to focus on rough sleepers.
After research and interviews – which took him across Kent to the West Country – he realised people on the streets needed more than a sleeping bag, free handouts and a temporary roof over their heads.
They require a secure locker to keep their possessions in which also doubles up as a phone charger and PO box, providing an address.
Having a fixed address is key as it allows people to open a bank account, communicate with essential services – such as housing – and get a job.
The lockers are interactive with each one equipped with a screen, which will help the user gain access to vital information such as NHS services and maps of the local area.
They'd also act as a digital donation point for the public to fund items, including food tokens, showers or a haircut.
His idea, Project Dignity, has made it to the finals in Samsung's Solve for Tomorrow youth competition, which could win him £10,000 and six months of expert advice to market his product.
The Rochester resident first thought of the idea on a trip to Krakow in Poland with his mates a few years ago when he saw a group of men walking the street with their worldly goods in a trolley.
On his return the 23-year-old contacted the Salvation Army whose bosses were impressed and paid for him to visit a shelter in Bristol. But being a charity, there was no funding available to take his proposal further.
Alec, who is a designer for a kitchen company, said: "I'm super excited to be in the finals. It's surreal to me. It's such a simple idea.
"I just can't believe nobody has thought of it before.
"I truly believe my concept could be used worldwide to make a difference in these people's lives."
Alec, who lives with his family at Hathaway Court, added he is passionate about the project and the response he has received from on the street has "fuelled his enthusiasm".
He said: "It's giving them hope, making them more part of society and and giving them back their dignity.
"It would be great to win the competition, but even if I don't, the potential goes beyond that."
He is on a shortlist of five others whose entries will be judged next month by a panel of tech experts and entrepreneurs.
This year is the first time Samsung has run the youth competition in the UK and it has seen competitors from across the country submit ideas to help tackle key challenges faced by society.