BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – As students and faculty at Indiana University’s Kelley School of Business look ahead to using their muscles this fall to build another home for a deserving Bloomington family, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County recently dedicated a house based on an idea from the minds of Kelley and IU students.
On Aug. 30, Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County celebrated its first home built from a shipping container, which also was the first of its kind by a Habitat affiliate in Indiana. The foundation for project initially was laid in 2019 by students competing in the school’s inaugural Kelley Impact Competition.
The transformation of a shipping container into a 320-square-foot home, with one bedroom and bath, a living room and combined kitchen/dining space is nearly complete. The home also has a covered deck outside. Homeowner Charlie Lynn Abbott, who identifies as queer, non-binary and autistic, looks forward to planting flowers, berries, and bushes outside.
“I’ve never lived in a safe home before. Starting out in a place where family made my living situation unsafe, as an adult I moved into situations where poverty and my autism made living safely impossible. My physical and mental health have always shown the signs of this,” Abbott said at the ceremony. “Although I’ve put a lot of work into getting better, and becoming a better person, my living situation has been a constant barrier. A safe, affordable house isn’t just an object, or property for me. It is a promise of the opportunity to live a better life and create my future self. This is my life long, and ultimate dream.”
Students were tasked in 2019 with finding innovative and cost-effective solutions to addressing affordable housing accessibility in Monroe County. Fifteen teams of undergraduate students competed and the top three presented their ideas to the judges. The competition is open to all IU undergraduate students.
The winning team was a group of four first-year students, beating out a team of all seniors. It included a student from Kelley, the Media School, the College of Arts & Sciences and the O’Neill School of Public and Environmental Affairs. Their presentation included a suggested building plan and budget analysis to transform a shipping container into a tiny home.
In addition to significant student awards, $10,000 in seed money was provided to Habitat to support the implementation of this winning idea to create lasting change in the community. Habitat also received a grant from the Community Foundation of Bloomington & Monroe County to support the project’s implementation.
The Kelley Impact Competition – now in its fifth year – is run by the school’s Kelley Institute for Social Impact, with support from Lance Breitstein, a 2011 Kelley alumnus from Chicago.
As the hub of social impact for business-minded students, the Kelley Institute for Social Impact – known to many as “KISI”– empowers socially conscious undergraduate students to make a difference in local and global communities through education, service, career development, and leadership opportunities. It also partners with Habitat and the Whirlpool Corporation on the annual IU build.
“While we are excited when any homeowner gets to move in, we were particularly excited about this one,” said Shawna Meyer-Niederman, KISI’s associate director, at the home’s dedication. “Our focus aligns greatly with the work of Habitat for Humanity Monroe County, and we are happy to support Habitats’ vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live.
“Lance wanted a way to not only challenge students to look beyond the Sample Gates, but to learn how their ideas can make a real difference. He said, ‘The Kelley Impact Competition incentivizes the smartest students in the country to learn more about the issues in their community, find solutions, and make a real difference in the world around them.’ And they did just that.”
Logan Schuerman, today the associate director of the Jellison Living-Learning Center at Kelley, initially worked with Breitstein, Habitat and students to launch the competition. Since then, students have focused on other important issues.
“Business has the power to drive positive change within communities,” Schuerman said in 2019. “This case competition is exciting because it is not just theoretical … Students will be able to see the impact of their ideas and be a part of creating change within Monroe County.”
In 2020, they focused on mental health and wellness – a timely issue as the nation went into the pandemic — working with the Bloomington chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. Last year, undeterred by the need to work remotely, the winning team presented solutions to help the Community Justice & Mediation Center better educate the community about its services, recruit more and diverse volunteers and find new channels for financial support. Earlier this year, they offered winning ideas about diversity, equity and inclusion for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce.
The next community partner for next spring’s Kelley Impact Competition has not yet been announced.
“We received many good ideas during the case competition, but this idea seemed the most effective way to achieve our goal to build a more cost-effective and efficient home for Habitat’s future homeowners,” said Nathan Ferreira, former director of land development and production at Habitat for Humanity of Monroe County, who was a driving force behind the logistics of the project.
“With lower construction costs and square footage and in turn, lower mortgage payments than a traditional home build – container homes offer the opportunity for Habitat to provide a long-term housing solution that is within reach for even more individuals in our community,” added Ferreira, now at Summit Hill Community Development Corporation. “Habitat couldn’t have completed this project with the generosity of the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County, the IU KISI Office, its students, and Kelley alumnus Lance Breitstein, and the time and talents of Habitat’s crew leaders.”