After the tsunami struck Southeast Asia in 2004, Roger Esbenshade saw the tents housing the homeless on TV and in photographs and thought better, more durable structures could be designed and built to serve as temporary shelters.
After the earthquake struck Haiti last month, Esbenshade and his brothers, Terry and Scott, got to work on a hoop house design to shelter the homeless. The Esbenshades, who operate Esbenshade’s Greenhouses in Lititz, Pa., rounded up the parts needed to assemble the hoop houses, calling on several different vendors to create the design they wanted. They attached all the pieces and shipped 200 separate hoop houses each measuring 14 by 16 feet to Haiti.
Esbenshade’s didn’t take on the project alone, though. More than 100 volunteers came together to make the project a success.
“The volunteers were people from the community, people from the church we go to and other people who heard what we were doing and just showed up to help,” Terry says. “We had a group called Teen Challenge–it’s a re-entry program for people who have either been into drug abuse or addiction–so we had a group of those guys come out one day and help.”
Vendors pitched in to help, too.
“A lot of the suppliers even donated time and supplies,” Terry says. “We went to go pick up plastic at one place that had 15 rolls of plastic– they donated five. Some local fabrication companies donated some items or special frames that we’re using to make sure greenhouses are [strong] when they’re put in the ground.”
Esbenshade’s teamed with Youth with a Mission International (YWAM), a group the family knows through its church that has a presence in Haiti. Upon arrival in Haiti’s port of St. Marc, YWAM personnel and a team of construction volunteers from Ephrata, Pa., are planning to meet the shipment of homes when it arrives. The plan is to construct 100 homes per acre.
Esbenshade’s, which financed the project out of its own pocket, estimates its 200 hoop houses are enough to shelter 1,000 homeless Haitians–a good start, Terry says, but a far cry from what the country needs.
“Two hundred (hoop houses) is really just a small percentage of what’s needed,” he says. “The housing minister of Haiti, I think, has estimated they need more than 200,000 homes. We’re sending 200. We’d love to send more in, but right now we are constrained by financing.
“We have volunteers locally here who will help us put more (houses) together and get more to Haiti if we can come up with the funding. So if there were any request I could put forth, it would be for funding, which can be done through YWAM.
Industry members or others who would like to financially sponsor a home can find more information at Esbenshades.com/Haiti. The cost for one home, including materials and shipping, is $300. All donations are, however, accepted and appreciated.