Hoop Houses For Haiti

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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 earlier this year, 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 Greenhouse 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.

Group Effort

The Esbenshade team 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 Esbenshade 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., received the hoop house shipment and began assembling homes. By mid-March, nearly 100 hoop houses were in place as shelters.

More ground clearing needed to be done before the other 100 homes could be constructed.

Still, in addition to the original 200 hoop houses Esbenshade’s shipped, the operation received a request from YWAM for another 200 homes.

“YWAM has been getting a good amount of funding, so they believe it’s possible to fund additional homes,” Terry says. “We’re actually sending more raw materials down. YWAM has people in Haiti who are now familiar with constructing the homes, and they’re going to be doing the work that we were originally doing (at the greenhouse operation).”

Esbenshade’s financed the original project out of its own pocket, and Terry estimates the original 200 sent are enough to shelter 1,000 homeless Haitians.

“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.

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. Donations of any amount are, however, accepted and appreciated. 

Kevin Yanik is the former managing editor of Greenhouse Grower.
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