About us

We are a social enterprise with a mission to improve the lives of forcibly displaced persons by providing affordable temporary shelter and a dignified, safer life away from home.

Our impact

  • We shipped out 15,797 Relief Housing Units (RHU).
  • 2,996 units of these were used in Covid-19 response in 22 countries.
  • We delivered shelters to a total of 36 countries (new destinations included Sweden, the Netherlands and Syria).
  • We collaborated with 24 organisations.
  • We held 150 online technical consultations.

COVID-19 response

We have been supporting partners with infrastructure for frontline staff and patients.

Last year, we shipped out nearly 3000 RHUs to Covid-19 response programs in 22 countries, including Sweden, Tajikistan, Colombia and Italy.

Here, they serve as:

  • information hubs
  • quarantine wards
  • screening centres
  • triaging units
  • offices and changing rooms for medical staff.​

Structure

Structure is a new approach to shelter with which we aim to increase resilience among displaced communities by providing emergency shelter structures which can be locally upgraded.

Last year we started collaborating with Aga Khan Agency for Habitat (AKAH), an Aga Khan Development Network agency, and SEEDS with the aim to develop and evaluate the Structure approach.

  • 50 Structures
  • 5 countries
  • 18 locations
  • 10 types of material

In 2021, we will scale up the Structure pilot program with partners, affected communities, and supporters to leverage local building practices with a minimum of prefabricated materials.

#CreateStructure

We developed a fundraising campaign to allow supporters to sponsor displaced families with a Structure. It launched in early 2021.

One Structure costs $365. This means that you can provide a family with a home for just a dollar a day for one year. Join us and learn more here.

6,500 shelters to Syria

The people of Syria continue to suffer the consequences of the war that entered its 10th year in 2020. 13 million people are in need of humanitarian assistance currently: more than 6.5 million Syrians are internally displaced and over 5.6 million are registered refugees.

Around 2.7 million people remain displaced in Northwest Syria, having fled fighting several times. In 2020 we shipped 6,500 RHUs to Northwest Syria where they will serve as family shelters as well as Covid-19 medical infrastructure.

“These shelters are delivering dignity and protection in addition to providing a better shelter. Everything around the world is improving for the better and it is time for the humanitarian community to think outside the box.”

– Yakzan Shishakly, CEO, Maram Foundation for Relief & Development

Team work

The team demonstrated great entrepreneurship and friendship, with recorded engagement at record levels in 2020.

A tightly knit team stayed connected from home. Daily check-ins with all staff kept us connected when COVID-19 restrictions prevented us from meeting in the office.

We worked up a sweat! Our weekly exercise sessions, “Better Athletics”, kept us active whenever it was safe for the team to meet.

Wellbeing, safety and labour rights. Two team members took a course in wellbeing, safety and labour rights to make sure we stay healthy and happy despite the difficult times.

Our mission

To improve the lives of forcibly displaced persons by providing affordable temporary shelter and a dignified, safer life away from home.

Better Shelter

Better Shelter is a social enterprise based in Stockholm, Sweden, originally initiated in partnership with the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR.

We are dedicated to changing the lives of those who have been forced to flee, by developing and providing safer and more dignified temporary shelter.

Since 2015, we have provided more than 60,000 Relief Housing Units (RHU) to refugee camps, transit sites and emergencies in 70 countries in Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East and Asia.

The RHUs are used not only as temporary shelters but also serve as clinics, classrooms and child friendly spaces.

We believe that effective and sensible shelter response requires both locally- and globally-made shelter solutions to address different context specific needs in protracted crises and emergencies around the world.

Working side by side with partners around the world give us the valuable opportunity to monitor quality, to understand partners’ shelter requirements and to keep developing the design based on real needs.

Planning for the years to come

By 2050, climate change and the socioeconomic impact of it may make 200 million people dependent on international humanitarian aid every year. Extreme weather events are expected to drive millions of people out of their homes and in need of shelter in the coming decades.

The world can still avoid a future environmental catastrophe by making immediate changes and by working together. At Better Shelter, we are setting ambitious short- and long term goals that will guide our work during the very critical years that lie ahead. We will implement our new sustainability strategy in the first quarter of 2022.

Towards a life in peace in a permanent home

One’s shelter becomes a critical survival mechanism that, albeit temporary, should offer protection, safety and dignity until a permanent home in peace becomes available. It should be a secure space where families can be together and cope with the trauma of displacement, as well as a foundation for physical and mental healing, for education, livelihood and protection. 

A displaced mother from Venezuela inside an RHU in a transit camp in Brazil, 2021.

Protecting human rights

We work to protect the basic human rights to home, health, and education. Together with local and global partners we not only offer shelter for families to live safely in. We also deploy structures that serve as community buildings and classrooms to facilitate education and development for schoolchildren in displacement. Medical NGOs save lives and reduce suffering by offering vital care in thousands of our structures.

Children displaced by an earthquake in Indonesia play in an RHU learning centre that offers trauma-relief and psychosocial activities, 2018.

Deploy, Upgrade, Upcycle

Our approach has always been to develop structures that, while temporary, can be implemented in an emergency and gradually be upgraded into a safe space that lasts throughout the duration of displacement.

The shelters are designed to adjust to the residents and their situation, and to offer the possibility to upgrade and prolong their lifespan or to turn them into something else when the situation changes.

The team in Rwanda shows off a Structure frame combined with bamboo and a CGI roof.

Recent activities

We are a member of the United Nations Global Compact since 2018, and integrate its ten principles across Human Rights, Labour, Environment and Anti-corruption in our operations. Recent actions include:

– the launch of Structure, a shelter developed for contexts with availability of local building materials

– a Life Cycle Analysis (LCA) of our shelters, that helps us measure and further reduce our environmental footprint

– increase in prepositioned stock in strategic regions to avoid sudden air freight to future emergencies

– decommissioning guidelines that help our partners choose an appropriate end-of-life strategy for the shelters

– shift to online trainings with partners around the globe to reduce travelling

Read our latest COP report

Vijeesh and Gopika in front of their Structure in Kerala, 2020. 

How we work

The Relief Housing Unit (RHU) has been developed over several years together with humanitarians, academic institutions and design practitioners, suppliers and experts in various fields. It has been rigorously tried and tested in the field as well as in labs to ensure compliance with The Sphere Standards for Humanitarian Use and resistance to years’ of use in harsh weather conditions.

We develop our products according to real circumstances with context-specific requirements in mind. Better Shelter collaborates closely with partners and supports them in determining the best suitability and application of our solutions. Further, we work together in the planning phase of implementations, where we provide expertise in the use and suitability of the RHUs.

Better Shelter offers on-site and remote training and support to ensure safe and effective assembly and maintenance of the shelters before, during and after the implementation of a program. We help our partners increase their capacity and optimise their available resources, in order to ensure as many people as possible receive the shelter they need, as quickly as possible.

Working side by side with our partners around the world also gives us the valuable opportunity to monitor quality, understand our partners’ shelter requirements in their operations and to both gather and offer feedback on the assembly and use of our shelters. By supporting our partners in quick, efficient and correct assembly of our shelters, we help the humanitarian community to maximise its potential in offering shelter to displaced persons. Our product team continues to refine the solution and work on future improvements in close collaboration with aid and development partners.