The Hope Shelter is a for-profit company with a humanitarian goal — to provide products that meet the basic needs of those living in developing countries.
Founded in fall 2010, the Milwaukee company makes shelters, water cisterns and toilet facilities out of foam slabs covered in a cement material at its 5,000-square-foot facility. President Hensley Foster calls the proprietary cement coating a “secret sauce.”
The lightweight shelter panels have linking connectors at each corner and can be interchanged to construct a family home or larger gathering place, like a library, medical clinic or depot, Foster said. The shelters are heat, wind and water resistant.
A 200-square-foot round building includes 14 wall panels and 14 roof panels, some of which have window or door openings, and can be assembled in about four hours.
Cisterns are constructed of shorter panels, with a water tight lining and a hand pump. Rain water is collected in the cisterns, which can be as large as 23,000 gallons, and pumped out for drinking.
The products are basic and inexpensive, with the aim of shipping orders to Third World countries or disaster relief sites.
“Everything we do in this production line is looking at the user as being in a place of very low resources,” he said.
Hope Shelter’s pilot project is in Kenya, where it sent its first major order — 270 squat slab toilets — at the end of December.
The squat slabs are just that — a simple slab with a coverable opening, raised platforms for one’s feet and a vent. It’s safer, healthier and easier to install than existing public toilets in many Kenyan communities, Foster said.
“At best they might have some public toilets that the government has constructed,” he said. “We designed it so a family could actually get one of these and own it.”
In addition, once a toilet pit has been filled, a tree is planted in its place to create a sustainable solution.
The company calls the toilets, “ToileTrees.”
“That’s important in Kenya because a lot of these third world countries, they end up deforesting their surroundings because that’s all they have for fuel,” Foster said.
He hopes communities who use its ToileTrees and shelters can eventually use Hope Shelter’s simple manufacturing techniques to make the products on-site, further reducing the cost structure.
The products are batch manufactured manually using molds and don’t require heavy machinery, Foster said.
Hope Shelter representatives traveled to the Migori District of Kenya in July to demonstrate the toilets and saw a high demand for the ToileTree.
“Before we got back, 200 people had put down their money and asked to buy one,” said Paul Haislmaier, vice president of business development.
The company also plans to demonstrate the ToileTrees in Belize, Gautemala and Haiti, where cholera often results from unsanitary drinking water.
“The water and the toilet go hand in hand in terms of controlling disease,” Foster said.
Hope Shelter is collaborating with Rotary District 6270 in West Allis to subsidize the ToileTrees and Project-Kenya Charity Inc. to distribute the products in Kenya. Families there pay about $20 U.S. and those donating a toilet to a Kenyan family give $45.
Project-Kenya is also conducting hygiene and sanitation education in the area.
Hope Shelter is currently offering common units to accredited investors to expand production. The offering is $1 per unit at a minimum of $10,000 per investor. About $120,000 has been invested so far, and the company hopes to raise $750,000.
Hope Shelter Manufacturing LLC
6711 W. Good Hope Road, Milwaukee
Industry: shelters and sanitation facilities