In 2015, students at Covenant Day School in Matthews, North Carolina, created ContainIt and began repurposing used shipping containers into living space for people on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. In December 2015, members of the ContainIt team delivered the first transformed container to Pine Ridge.
The students wanted to continue the ContainIt ministry, and they developed two key partnerships with general contractors Edifice, Inc. and Little Diversified Architectural Consulting. The team began work on three new 40-foot containers. Students worked on constructing these containers—which included a singles unit, a family unit, and a bathroom/kitchen combo—throughout the 2016–2017 school year.
In addition to the physical work, the team had to find funding for the project; in March 2017, the team raised nearly $50,000 in a sporting clay shoot. These funds helped kick off phase I of a 14-container complex in Pine Ridge, allowing the students to complete the first three containers and ship them to Pine Ridge Reservation in mid-May. A team of students, staff, and representatives from Edifice and Little traveled to Pine Ridge to help install the containers.
During the trip the group was also able to serve in other ways such as leading a Bible study for children, participating in a jail ministry, engaging in a prayer meeting, and supporting the local church and pastoral staff. The pastors envision using the units as additions to the transitional housing complex located next to the church and are considering the feasibility of refurbishing containers into housing themselves to provide jobs and income for people on the reservation.
Conditions on the two-million acre Pine Ridge Reservation are difficult. The median income of the 40,000 Lakota Indians on the reservation is less than $3,500 per year, with more than 95 percent of the population living below federal poverty levels. Alcoholism affects eight out of ten families on the reservation, the teenage suicide rate is 150 percent higher than the US national average, and the infant mortality rate is around 300 percent higher than the US national average. The school drop-out rate is over 70 percent. Mobile homes and trailers on the reservation are overcrowded, with many homes housing more than 15 people.
When they returned to North Carolina, the ContainIt management team began working on obtaining three additional 40-foot containers, with a target of May of 2018 for delivery to the reservation. The plan is to use one to construct a standalone unit that is comprised of sleeping, living, kitchen, and bathroom space. The other two will be used to construct a family unit similar to the one just delivered.