When Madi Scheid, 12, was younger she came across a newspaper article and photograph of a homeless man up north who had frozen to death during the winter because he couldn’t find shelter.
It was an image that stuck with her.
When her sixth grade class at Rowlett Academy last year decided to do something different, choosing to do a science invention project instead of a typical science project, Madi seized the moment.
Madi designed a “Hobo on the Go” shelter that serves as a mini portable home on wheels that pushes along like a shopping cart. It is large enough for a grown person to crawl into and curl up to get away from the elements and even has a design feature that collects heat from the sun to keep the inside warm.
During the design process, Madi still had the image of the man who froze to death in her mind and heart as the project went forward. It has battery operated lighting inside and a basket on the outside to collect aluminum cans to help pay for the batteries. Madi had help from dad with the construction but she left no stone unturned in designing as much comfort into a small package as possible.
While many of the other students submitted drawings of small things on a variety of topics, “Tiny Mighty Madi,” as her mother Jeni calls her, was all about going big.
“We were supposed to think of a problem in our community and invent something to help it,” Madi said. “Right away I thought of homeless people because I have always thought about them and it makes me sad. So I decided to do this as my invention. It was just supposed to be a model, but it turned into this. I really did not think someone would be sleeping in my invention.”
That someone is a homeless man called “Reggie,” who was the lucky recipient of the portable shelter. He’s been spotted all over town because of his unusual cart and, well, because it’s bright pink.
“But he absolutely loves it,” said Laura Licoski, founder of Facing Homelessness, Bradenton. “He’s got the sweetest soul.”
Madi was hoping to meet Reggie on Thursday, but he was nowhere to be found. Inside was a blanket, pillow, small radio and a Bible. The cart was already in rough shape with some screws coming loose from obvious use. Madi went to work in her mind on what needs to be done to strengthen the next one she makes, but her mind also was focused on Reggie.
“I hope he’s OK,” Madi said. “I hope he’s not in the hospital.”
Madi’s heart for the homeless goes back to when she was at a very young age.
“Her ideas and her dreams has always been larger than life,” said her mother Jeni Scheid. “I can remember a time when she was maybe 4 years old and we were going through McDonald’s and we saw a homeless woman sitting on the side asking for food and Madi made me turn my car around and get her food. So we got her some food and gift cards for the future and she was so touched by it.”
Scheid said she talks a lot with her kids when they see someone on the street and see the good in people who may be struggling.
“It’s not a bad person,” Scheid said. “Some of them are veterans, some maybe had one struggle that put them there and we really try to relate to them. Everybody is asking themselves what they can do in their community and I am just so proud of Madi that she is showing that you can be this young and make a difference.”
For someone like Licoski, who has been working with the homeless in Bradenton for five years, it’s this level of compassion that makes a difference. Licoski’s consistent message to the community is to think out of the norm and interact with the homeless because a smile and a handshake goes a lot further than anything else.
“For an 11-year-old to come up with this idea and to design this to make sure it has heating panels, that it’s waterproof, that it’s comfortable inside and has lighting, it shows so much community respect and compassion it blows my mind,” Licoski said. “This is the type of thing we should see from our younger generation. This is the type of thing that will change the world and change people’s perspective on homelessness.”