LOCAL NEWS

Turtle Shelter Project Gives Homeless A Shelter They Can Wear

Nov 13, 2019, 7:40 PM | Updated: 10:16 pm

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah — As state officials work through the challenges of adopting a new model for homeless services, one woman who knows what it’s like to sleep on the streets is helping to save lives.

Jen Spencer came up with a solution for shelter that people can wear or carry with them when there’s nowhere warm to go. It’s called the Turtle Shelter Project because turtles carry their shelters on their backs.

“This is like a shelter that you can wear on your back,” Spencer said, holding up a well-made foam vest with a waterproof hood.

The Turtle Shelters are made of rip-stop nylon and foam and conserve heat, even when wet. In addition to the waterproof hoods, they have insulated collars and pockets.

The Turtle Shelters are made of rip-stop nylon and foam and conserve heat, even when wet. In addition to the waterproof hoods, they have insulated collars and pockets.

“When you put your hand in there when you’re wearing it, it’s like putting your hand into a heater,” Spencer said, sliding her hand into the padded pocket.

Spencer knows how the chill can dig into a person’s body when the sun goes down and there’s nowhere warm to go. She came up with the idea for Turtle Shelters after she spent time several years ago living in her truck, addicted to meth.

“It’s horrible,” Spencer said. “As soon as the sun goes down you know that the heat source is gone.”

The idea of the Turtle Shelter Project is to save people’s lives on the streets so they can have a chance at a new life. Spencer learned about foam clothing at an emergency preparedness conference and felt like she needed to do something.

“I was like really excited because I had just been homeless three months prior to this,” she said. “It was a really brutal winter and I remember it was so cold that you couldn’t even think.”

She said seven of her friends had frozen to death.

“How many lives could be saved if they had access to this technology?” she wondered at the time.

Spencer believed she could make a difference, but the foam clothing technology was too expensive — and she couldn’t sew.

“No, there’s got to be a way we can get these into the hands of the homeless, so they can have access to it,” she said.

So, she talked about it to anybody who would listen, until, she said, divine intervention led her to Angela Roth at her church, who was looking for meaningful ways to use her sewing skills. The two of them got to work a couple of years ago.

“I knew once people knew what this can do, I knew people would get excited about it because it’s like magic what it can do to save somebody’s life,” she said.

On Wednesday, 70 Salt Lake City employees pitched in to help with measuring, cutting and sewing after Mayor Jackie Biskupski organized a day of service at the City and County Building. All of them dug into the project eagerly.

“This is amazing. I’m overwhelmed,” she said, looking over the room full of volunteers.

She said she’s humbled by the extraordinary enthusiasm that others seem to be bringing to her project. Nearly 600 Turtle Shelters have already been given out on the Wasatch Front.

But, they’re not just making warm hoodies, Spencer said. They’re serving in a way that saves lives and shares love.

“Our main mission is to convey that they are loved,” she said. “That really is the most important goal here.”

In April, Jen will celebrate five years of being drug-free. The Turtle Shelter Project, she said, has given her a feeling of purpose and a way to serve.

A $30 donation pays for the materials needed for one Turtle Shelter, which takes eight hours of sewing to make.

You can get involved and donate money, time or sewing skills through their website.

KSL 5 TV Live

Local News

Despite rain earlier in the day, hundreds of people came out to attend the annual Busker Fest on Sa...

Brianna Chavez

Rain clears up Saturday for families to enjoy annual Busker Fest

Rain put a damper on some plans, but thankfully the sunshine came out just in time for people to enjoy the weekend festivities especially the annual Busker Fest.

5 hours ago

Christopher "Topher" Owens and William "Drew" Bull were last seen on February 26 in Blanding...

Mark Jones

Man accused in the killing of two missing men earlier this year is facing additional charges

A man accused of killing two men missing from San Juan County earlier this year is facing additional charges.

5 hours ago

Levi Wright, 3, vanished into a creek and was found a mile downstream in a near drowning....

Mark Jones

Mother of toddler who nearly drowned in Beaver County says ‘MRI wasn’t good’

BEAVER — The mother of a Beaver County toddler who nearly drowned earlier this week went to social media on Friday to provide an update on her son’s condition. The news wasn’t good.  In a Facebook post, Kallie Wright said the following about her son: “The MRI wasn’t good, we’re shattered but it is just […]

6 hours ago

A dog peers at Animal Care of Davis County in Fruit Heights in an undated photo. The county is plan...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

Davis County officials weigh tax hike, planning new shelter to contend with stray dogs, cats

Animal Care of Davis County, the sole animal shelter in the county, is crunched for space and money. It's prompted plans to build a new $15-million shelter and has Davis County commissioners weighing a property tax hike to keep pace with the rising cost of caring for the critters.

8 hours ago

Cherry Stewart and her husband, Zachary Stewart, adopted two children from Haiti more than a year a...

Alex Cabrero

Utah family obtains legal assistance to help get children they adopted out of Haiti

In hopes of getting their two adopted children out of Haiti, a Utah family has joined with more than 20 other families in hiring the Fox Rothschild law firm that deals with difficult international adoptions.

9 hours ago

Eduardo Baca Cuenca, general consul of the Mexican Consulate in Salt Lake City, discusses voting by...

Tim Vandenack, KSL.com

‘They want to participate’: Mexicans in Utah will be able to take part in Mexico’s presidential vote

As the U.S. presidential campaign heats up, a parallel campaign south of the U.S. border for the Mexican presidency is reaching a crescendo.

11 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Electrician repairing ceiling fan with lamps indoors...

Lighting Design

Stay cool this summer with ceiling fans

When used correctly, ceiling fans help circulate cool and warm air. They can also help you save on utilities.

Side view at diverse group of children sitting in row at school classroom and using laptops...

PC Laptops

5 Internet Safety Tips for Kids

Read these tips about internet safety for kids so that your children can use this tool for learning and discovery in positive ways.

Women hold card for scanning key card to access Photocopier Security system concept...

Les Olson

Why Printer Security Should Be Top of Mind for Your Business

Connected printers have vulnerable endpoints that are an easy target for cyber thieves. Protect your business with these tips.

Modern chandelier hanging from a white slanted ceiling with windows in the backgruond...

Lighting Design

Light Up Your Home With These Top Lighting Trends for 2024

Check out the latest lighting design trends for 2024 and tips on how you can incorporate them into your home.

Technician woman fixing hardware of desktop computer. Close up....

PC Laptops

Tips for Hassle-Free Computer Repairs

Experiencing a glitch in your computer can be frustrating, but with these tips you can have your computer repaired without the stress.

Close up of finger on keyboard button with number 11 logo...

PC Laptops

7 Reasons Why You Should Upgrade Your Laptop to Windows 11

Explore the benefits of upgrading to Windows 11 for a smoother, more secure, and feature-packed computing experience.

Turtle Shelter Project Gives Homeless A Shelter They Can Wear