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Home for Hope offers shelter from the storm

November 09, 2010

Five years after Hurricane Katrina, nearly 12,000 people in New Orleans are still homeless. The earthquake that struck Haiti last January left more than 180,000 homes damaged or destroyed and more than 1.5 million people homeless. Both disasters showed that current relief efforts are simply inadequate, despite the hard work and generosity of individuals and organizations all over the world.

Natural disasters like these are what inspired Home for Hope, a project developed by ASU students that was selected to receive an Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative grant of $15,000.

Home for Hope aims to ease housing shortages by providing durable, mobile shelter units to those in need. Each unit will be an adapted 20-foot-long recycled shipping container that can house up to eight people. The design is smart and innovative because the shelter is fairly inexpensive to construct – about $4,000 – but more effective than existing options, such as the tents that were used to provide shelter in Haiti after the earthquake. The unit also will be easily transportable to anywhere in the world.

“Current disaster and homeless shelters are often made from products that can tear, rot or be destroyed after one use. Our design, using recycled products like shipping containers and reclaimed wood, is designed to last years, if not decades,” says Laron Turley, the team leader and owner of the Home for Hope idea and venture.

Turley graduated from ASU last May with a bachelor’s degree in finance from the W.P. Carey School of Business and a minor in urban design and planning from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. He is now a master’s student in planning at the University of Southern California.

Jeffrey Standage, a junior in the Del E. Webb School of Construction within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, oversees the construction and design aspect of Home for Hope. Standage also works with Allan Chasey, a professor of Alternative Delivery and Sustainable Development, rendering 3D building models on the computer for one of Chasey’s construction classes. After completing his undergraduate work, Standage hopes to pursue a master’s degree in architecture here at ASU.

“As evidenced by the innovative design that he put forth for the Home for Hope project, Allan has quite a bit of creativity and that should help him in the architecture program,” Chasey says. “He is persistent and works hard, two more traits that will do him good.”

Although Turley’s idea for Home for Hope was originally inspired by the prospect of providing shelter for natural disaster victims and third-world housing shortages, the team hopes to start by making a difference here in Arizona.

“We’d like to go locally and help families that are struggling in the bad economic times,” Standage says.

Anyone who travels by foot in downtown Phoenix or Tempe can attest to the number of homeless individuals living on the street. According to a 2009 survey by the Arizona Coalition to End Homelessness, 14,514 Arizonans have reported being homeless. Standage and his team believe Homes for Hope could reduce this number and help alleviate overcrowding in shelters.

However, in order to create a prototype to test that theory, Home for Hope must first secure a sponsor. The ideal candidate would be a well-established organization with existing ties in the community. The team has their sights set on A New Leaf, a Mesa-based nonprofit that provides homeless and domestic violence services to nearly 20,000 Arizona residents each year.

Once Home for Hope takes off in Arizona, Turley believes the project will expand to countries all over the world.

“Eventually Home for Hope will be a kit that can be easily shipped anywhere around the world and installed in a shipping container found in the local port city,” Turley says. “I believe Home for Hope has the potential to truly change the way people look at housing.“

The Edson Student Entrepreneur Initiative at ASU provides funding, office space and training for teams of students to explore their innovative ideas for business products and services in partnership with faculty, researchers and successful entrepreneurs from both the academic and private sectors.

Written by Allie Nicodemo, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development