5 Surprising Places Habitat for Humanity Is Helping People

5 Surprising Places Habitat for Humanity Is Helping People

Habitat for Humanity has organized the construction of countless homes throughout the United States and mobilized the community to construct quality, affordable homes for families that would otherwise have no roof over their heads. Outside of the United States, Habitat for Humanity works diligently in dozens of countries to provide housing for families in need while also addressing other shortcomings that prevent people from achieving a high quality of life. The organization is active in a number of different regions, spearheading a wide range of projects, from clean water initiatives in Africa to disaster response efforts in the Middle East.

While Europe remains one of the most developed parts of the world, Habit for Humanity continues to maintain a presence in more than a dozen countries to help close the gaps that prevent people from living their best lives. The following are a handful of the European countries in which Habitat for Humanity works:

  1. Poland

polandPoland was the first European country in which the organization established operations, and over the past 25 years it has helped more than 1,300 families. About 15 percent of the nation’s population lives in substandard housing, and nearly half live in overcrowded conditions. The need for housing in Poland is twice the European average.

To address this problem, Habitat for Humanity has undertaken a number of innovative programs. A Housing Cooperatives project works with families who have poor credit ratings to help them construct multifamily buildings through volunteer support and land purchases. The organization also launched the Trampoline project, which offers affordable apartments to young people transitioning out of foster care and into adulthood. A third project aims at funding emergency renovations of homes in Warsaw and other areas to make them habitable.

  1. Ireland

Affordable housing for low-income families remains one of the biggest challenges in Ireland, and the situation has worsened since the 2008 financial crisis, which brought about rises in rent and home prices, as well as in utilities. Habitat for Humanity has partnered with the Dublin City Council to help increase the availability of affordable housing. In addition, the organization maintains a program called A Brush with Kindness, which renovates and refurbishes housing meant for vulnerable groups.

Ireland also has a strong commitment to helping other Habitat for Humanity outposts and regularly sends volunteers overseas to help with various projects. Since 2007, Ireland and Zambia have maintained an important partnership to increase housing for orphans and other African children in need.

  1. Romania

In Romania, more than half of all children live in poverty, and 2 out of 5 people have no reliable access to sanitation facilities or running water. More than one-third of all housing units in the country are in need of repair, and national wage averages continue to drop, straining the entire social system. In response, Habitat for Humanity has partnered with low-income families across the country to rapidly construct new homes and even entire apartment blocks, with 10-unit buildings being completed in a single week. Rehabilitation efforts have also helped revitalize communist-era apartments to make them accessible to underserved groups like orphans and the Roma.

Habitat for Humanity in Romania has a special focus on energy-efficient housing. As such, it has helped thousands of people learn how to reduce heating costs using simple repairs and insulation.

  1. Slovakia

slovakiaWhile official reports claim that the Roma only constitute about 2 percent of the total population in Slovakia, unofficial estimates are much higher. Unfortunately, Roma settlements often lack running water and consist of little more than one-room shacks with a single bed for both adults and children. Many of these homes offer little protection from the region’s harsh winters, and those who do have heat must often pay insanely high amounts for utilities. Habitat for Humanity has collaborated with local nonprofits to meet the needs of the Roma and other low-income families in the country.

One of the primary initiatives in Slovakia involves microloans that help low-income families afford home improvements like insulation, proper windows and doors, and quality flooring. Families who receive microloans also obtain training in construction techniques. Additionally, Habitat for Humanity requires its families to participate in financial training regarding savings, credit, and money management, as well as how to use a microenterprise to turn a profit.

  1. Hungary

About one-third of Hungary’s population must deal constantly with the threat of social marginalization and poverty. Further, homelessness has become an increasingly widespread issue in recent years, with public policy only making the situation worse. To address these issues, the organization has undertaken a great deal of advocacy work to push for fair and inclusive policies that protect, rather than marginalize, low-income citizens. The European Union has also helped implement a number of beneficial programs based on the organization’s lobbying efforts.

Habitat for Humanity also runs a Second Chance program that works with families in shelters initially to identify affordable rental units and later to offer continuing support through social work and other services. In addition, the organization operates a Housing First program, which helps individuals struggling with homelessness develop the skills and support networks they need to stay off of the streets and become more self-reliant.