Winchester construction company bosses ‘filled with pride’ as first pop-up homes for Ukrainian refugees leave for Poland

Bosses at a Winchester construction company expressed ‘tremendous pride’ after waving at two emergency shelter units on the Polish-Ukrainian border, but insisted – ‘this is just the beginning”.

Stelling Properties, specializing in modular construction, has used its expertise to design and build transportable accommodation inside shipping containers to help house people living in dangerous and freezing conditions in refugee camps across Europe. .

The insulated units – which can be configured within an hour of delivery – include flexible sleeping, living, cooking and bathroom spaces that could potentially house up to two adults and two children or three adults at once. time.

Dubbed the Re:Haus project, the venture operates as a separate staff-led charity initiative and was launched by the team just days after news broke of the war in Ukraine, to put their expertise to good use.

On Friday morning, employees and administrators waved to the first two units from their base at Micheldever station as they departed in the back of a truck for a refugee camp in Poland.

MP Steve Brine helped connect Re:Haus project leaders with Chris Roles of the Disaster Emergency Committee. They are currently exploring ways the organization can help Stelling produce hundreds more units. Mr. Brine gave a tour of the factory where the temporary houses were built and watched over as they left for Europe.

Units ready to leave for Poland

He said: “It’s such a simple idea, if it hadn’t been invented it would have had to be created, and what’s great is that it was created right here in Winchester and it actually changes the lives of people around the world. There’s a much broader reading than just the Polish-Ukrainian border, there are possibly just under 100 million displaced people in the world today , so you can see that it has real application and I’m going to take the ideas that I’ve seen here today back to Westminster and tell everyone and everyone who will listen.

“People feel very helpless about the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, and it’s something very practical that people could get involved in through different charities and aid efforts, including DEC, to see it unfold more and more widely. It’s a brilliant home-grown idea that changes lives.”

The first prototype was built in just two weeks at the end of March, with staff drawing on their experience to ‘design on the go’. Learning from this process, the first two fully functional houses were assembled in the same space of time.

Dean Porrett, Cell Manager at Stelling Properties, said: “I really enjoyed being part of the project. I was a little skeptical at first when we brought in the shipping container, but as it all fell into place I thought: I actually live there myself. We are all very proud, it’s good to see that we are helping people there. They need this help, and I hope we can help many more families as this project progresses.

Hampshire Chronicle: Dean PorrettDean Porrett

Olena Hrebeniuk fled her home in Kharkiv with her 11-year-old daughter Masha to come to Winchester as part of the Homes for Ukraine programme. She was forced to leave her husband behind and says she often struggles to contact him for days on end as the destruction has led to frequent signal blackouts across the country. Olena stayed with Monica Wandzik, architect and senior design manager at Stelling, and was there to watch the first two units depart to help the people of her homeland.

Hampshire Chronicle: Olena (left) and Monica Olena (left) and Monica

She said: “This project is very necessary because a lot of people have to stay homeless. A lot of people have to stay in a house with all their relatives because it’s not safe anywhere else. For a few weeks it’s fine, but when you’re there for months and months you need space and privacy to yourself so this is a really good idea that’s not expensive and quickly provides all the essentials in a small space. This war started in the winter and in many places you find yourself without gas because of the rockets. But these units offer warmth all year round.

Project manager Maddie Podstada contacted the Folkowisko Foundation – a Polish charity that has been providing border aid since the Russian invasion attempt began – when the concept for Re:Haus was born. With the help of association owners, two sites in Poland and one in Ukraine have been identified as locations for housing. They have since joined forces with aid workers in Dnipro, the Ukrainian city in dire need of support as Russian airstrikes continue to wreak havoc.

Maddie also said she has received inquiries from elsewhere in Europe, including Slovakia and the Czech Republic, as the number of refugees continues to rise.

Hampshire Chronicle: Inside the Pods Inside the pods

Although they were primarily created as living spaces, the versatility of the product’s design means that it can also be stripped down to provide space for alternative uses such as a hospital or pop-up clinic. Similar schemes are also being considered to tackle homelessness in the UK, including one in Leeds.

The first two units were funded by Stelling to show the potential of pods to change people’s lives. But despite Friday’s celebrations, project leaders are calling for additional support to get started and ensure Re:Haus helps as many refugees as possible.

Sam Whitworth, Director of Engineering at Stelling Properties, said: “Seeing the units leave for Poland gives me immense pride, especially for the team that delivered them. A lot of people have given up their evenings and weekends to really go the extra mile and show they care – I couldn’t be more proud of them. Seeing him from my position was a real privilege. I really hope we can get to a point where all of their hard work comes to fruition and we can deploy more of these units and help a lot more people.

Hampshire Chronicle: Left to right: Sam Whitworth, Maddie Podstada and Jordan Griffith in front of the prototype From left to right: Sam Whitworth, Maddie Podstada and Jordan Griffith in front of the prototype

“We settled with the ambition to create safe, secure and dignified housing, and I think we’ve all worked hard and believe we’ve achieved that. I can see people living in it, being warm, being able locking the front door, cooking meals, bathing and staying clean, I really think we have a product that offers these things and has the potential to make a huge difference for a huge number of people.

“Our primary focus in any business is the customer and for us the customer is the person who lives in or uses the units we provide. It is the aid worker who lives there, the doctor who uses it to treat sick people or the refugee looking for a home. So partnering with aid agencies and foundations really helps us get closer to the customer and what they need – and ultimately that’s what it’s all about. acts.

“What we need now is financial support. The majority of people who come to us for help are aid agencies or foundations who want the units but need help sorting out financing. So what we’re trying to do for them is give them a turnkey solution where we find that financing and deliver the units to them and relieve that burden. So we’re really looking for supply partners, companies, aid agencies and individuals who are willing to get involved, donate and provide materials to help we are building this off of what was a fantastic success today sending the first two units in Poland into something much, much bigger where we can supply hundreds of units and help thousands of people.”

To learn more about the project or to donate, visit: rehaus.org/

Michael J. Chiaramonte