About Us

Every Shelter is a non-profit organization building a localized refugee-aid ecosystem centered around the needs, preferences, and aspirations of refugees.

Our Origin Story

It all began with a commitment to the fundamental purpose of architecture: providing humans with adequate shelter.

While working toward their Masters of Architecture at Rice University in 2012, Scott Austin Key and Sam Brisendine participated in the Rice Building Workshop (now known as Construct), where they began a shelter design project that led to their first innovation, Emergency Floor. While still graduate students, they were invited to test Emergency Floor with IKEA’s BetterShelter in Sweden and were awarded a USAID grant in 2016 to further test and pilot it in Lebanon. The refugee camp that received Emergency Floor responded positively and showed significant, measurable improvement in health and well-being. Seeing first-hand the impact that good design can have in people’s lives, they pressed on to improve Emergency Floor and to seek new design ideas.

While testing and piloting Emergency Floor, both men worked full-time as Project Managers for large architectural firms, taking on a wide variety of projects such as redesigning the San Antonio River Boats and drawing plans for multi-million dollar homes . But their commitment to serving refugees and the displaced never wavered, and in 2018, along with partners Nicole Iman and Julia Wallin, they formed Every Shelter to focus on collaborative design and co-creation. Every Shelter is a growing team employing full-time staff and continually expanding our volunteer networks and partnerships with aid agencies and the displaced populations they serve.

Until every refugee creates home.

The phrase “creates home” may seem abstract, but it’s the powerful driving force behind what Every Shelter has set out to accomplish. “Home” isn’t just a place, but a feeling. Home is a sense of belonging and comfort. That is our vision for the future – a future where every refugee creates home for themselves. This empowered state of belonging is something we believe is possible for every refugee.

Meet Our Team

Scott Key

Co-Founder and CEO
Houston, Texas
Click to read bio

Nicole Iman

Co-Founder and CPO
Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates
Click to read bio

Loise Wambui

Program Coordinator
Kampala, Uganda
Click to read bio

Bless Tusiime

Shelter Depot Coordinator
Kampala, Uganda

Lauren Hanson

Community Manager
Houston, Texas
Click to read bio

Stefanie Cortez​

Grants Manager
Dallas, Texas
Click to read bio

Austin Hermann

Chief of Staff
Houston, Texas

Sam Brisendine

Co-Founder and Board Member
Houston, Texas
Click to read bio

Admir Masic

Board Member
Cambridge, Massachusetts

Amy Moen

Board Member
Houston, Texas

Andy Agaba

Advisory Board Member
Kampala, Uganda
Click to read bio

Anna Betu

Advisory Board Member
Kampala, Uganda

Carly Seidewand Eppley

Board Member
Boston, Massachusetts

Doug Meikle

Board Member
Houston, Texas

Emily Hornok

Board Member
Waco, Texas

Jade Acker

Advisory Board Member
Kampala, Uganda

Janine Deetlefs

Advisory Board Member
Kampala, Uganda

Joe Meppelink

Board Member
Houston, Texas

John Irungu

Advisory Board Member
Nakivale, Uganda

Judy Nyquist

Board Member
Houston, Texas

Marie Nyiraneza

Advisory Board Member
Nakivale, Uganda
Click to read bio

Noella Kabali Kalu

Advisory Board Member
Kampala, Uganda
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Shane Allbritton

Board Member
Houston, Texas

How We Work

As a small but growing team, what we do is just as important as how we do it.

#1

Start Local

We value the input of refugees above all else. We trust those who are living and breathing the problems we are trying to solve– we take our leads from them.

#2

Settle In

We know we are running a marathon, not a sprint. Our efforts have a long runway and can take years to see the fruits of our labor. We dispel the culturally held belief that to be making an impact, our results need to be drastic and immediate. We prioritize long-term solutions over quick, shallow fixes.

#3

Reject Cynicism

We recognize that the layers of the problems we are solving can be overwhelming. The issues we seek to address are inherently negative, and challenges are abundant. When we face cultural, political, and emotional roadblocks, we remember we are playing the long game. We focus on where we are headed rather than where we find ourselves today.

#4

Stay Curious

We’re willing to try new things and reevaluate the traditional approach. Curiosity means we’re always willing to take in new information and adjust accordingly. Failure is inevitable, but we fail fast and forward, eager to course correct.

#5

Elevate Others

We believe in an economy of abundance, not scarcity. We celebrate, support, and promote the great work other organizations are doing. When possible, we collaborate to achieve our shared goals.

#6

Choose Empathy

We recognize that individuals are not defined by their refugee status. We see ourselves in every refugee we work alongside. They have preferences, fears, and dreams, just like us. We desire to show them the compassion and empathy we would want to be shown if we were in the same situation. We are them. They are us.

Scott Key

Co-Founder and CEO

Houston, Texas

The process of designing new approaches and solutions to grave issues drives me. I believe the private sector and its vast reserves of professional skills and resources can fruitfully add to the productivity of ongoing humanitarian efforts to create a more just and merciful society. We all have a responsibility to do our part, but I firmly believe that in giving of ourselves we receive far more back than we give. Wendell Berry writes, “life is a gift we have only by giving it back again.” As a father of two young daughters, I want to model the intelligent, diligent, and hard-working compassion toward our neighbor to which I believe we are all obliged. It’s urgent and important work that we do.

Nicole Iman

Co-Founder and CPO

Ras al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates

I’ve been traveling the globe in development-related pursuits for more than 20 years, working with people throughout the varied stages of displacement. During my tenure in Afghanistan, I saw first-hand the challenges my Afghan colleagues faced that caused them to flee for their lives. While studying in northern Uganda, I met families struggling through years of displacement despite multiple attempts to return home. Through volunteer resettlement work in the US, I welcomed resettled refugees hoping to rebuild their lives in a new place while mourning the loss of friends and family they left behind. I am keenly aware of the human tendency to look at images of displaced people and refugees and immediately categorize them as “other.” Through joining Every Shelter, I have the chance to share stories that can change that category to “one another” and help us work together toward dignified, human-centered solutions.

Loise Wambui

Program Coordinator

Kampala, Uganda

I am deeply committed to advocating for joint solutions to economic and social development issues. I consider myself a global citizen with cross-cultural experience working as an economist in Eswatini, a Girl Scout volunteer in rural Switzerland, and teaching in Mathare, one of Kenya's largest slums. My desire to work towards dignified shelter solutions for vulnerable people started while working in Mathare Slums. Four years later, I am now working with and for refugees in Uganda. I have loved using my many abilities in this new sector, and my favorite thing has been working with local small enterprises and refugee organizations to sew the tarps! As someone conscious of how my own actions affect the wider community, I am always learning new ways to help make things a little better.

Lauren Hanson

Development Officer

Houston, Texas

As a mother to two young children, I cannot imagine the fear and despair I would feel if I was forced to leave the comfort of my home and community. The fact that this is a growing reality for so many people around our world is truly heartbreaking. I believe our compassion can make a significant impact in the lives of these displaced populations. As Melinda Gates writes, “Philanthropy is not about the money. It’s about using whatever resources you have at your fingertips and applying them to improving the world.” Therefore, it is my privilege to mobilize people to make a global impact with their time, gifts, and resources through partnering with Every Shelter as we labor to bring better provisions and life dignifying solutions to forcefully displaced populations.

Stefanie Cortez

Communications Specialist

Dallas, Texas

At Every Shelter I have the unique opportunity to use two passions in my life, mathematics and parenting, in one position. As a mathematician, I appreciate effective, elegant, and well-developed solutions to a problem. As a mom of two little ones, I also know the importance of sharing the stories, challenges, and successes of my life with my kids and others. As Communications Specialist for Every Shelter, I have the opportunity to inform the public about innovative designs as well as share the stories of people who are resolutely rebuilding their lives in new communities and countries despite overwhelming challenges. I believe that every person who reads about our work has the ability to impact people’s lives across the globe as they follow along with the journey to help people rebuild their lives from the floor up.

Sam Brisendine

Co-Founder and Board Member

Houston, Texas

As a designer from the private sector, I'm passionate about ideas that improve the lives of those in need. My experience designing buildings, products, and art has taught me an important lesson: The most meaningful work is produced when partners work hand-in-hand on a common mission. Over the past 5 years, I've watched Every Shelter transform from an academic pursuit to working (and learning) alongside world-class organizations to design solutions that bring dignity to displaced communities. I have never been more proud of the work we're doing and look forward to seeing how we can continue to collaborate to solve the challenges ahead.

Andy Agaba

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Andy Agaba is a Praxis Fellow and the founder of Hiinga, a Christian Impact Investing Fund working across a spectrum of sectors including healthcare, financial services, education, agriculture, and manufacturing in East Africa. He graduated from Harvard Kennedy School where he was a Gleitsman Innovation Fellow at the Center for Public Leadership. At Uganda's Makerere University, he was a Poli sci major. Andy advises at the MIT Martin Trust Center for Entrepreneurship and is an award-winning documentary photographer.

Marie Nyiraneza

Advisory Board Member

Nakivale, Uganda

Marie is a Social Worker, currently working with the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) as a Community Paralegal in Nakivale Refugee Settlement, and Interpreter for Refugee Resettlement Programs. Marie is a refugee from Rwanda and has lived in Nakivale Refugee Settlement since 2008. She holds a Bachelor in Social Work and a CEFE Licence for Entrepreneurship Trainer. She is passionate about contributing to the improvement of refugee livelihoods and is also a Master Trainer for the MarketPlace Literacy Program in Nakivale.

Noella Kabale Kalu

Advisory Board Member

Kampala, Uganda

Noella Kabale Kalu is a Congolese by nationality, living in Uganda as a refugee registered in the urban setting since 2011. She is the founder of REAL Uganda and Refugee Women Voices, a member of the Refugee-led Network (RELON), Refugee Representative at the CRRF steering working group. She aspires to build a society where women, men, and young females are treated with dignity, fairness, and respect, regardless of their status & and vulnerable conditions they find themselves in due to war, conflict, or other atrocities.

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