The fight against homelessness: projects from around the world that are helping

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The fight against homelessness: projects from around the world that are helping

Around the world people are fighting against homelessness and finding new solutions. Here are some of them:


© Building and Social Housing Foundation

Sri Lanka: 50,000 Houses for War Survivors

The 26-year civil war in Sri Lanka finally ended in 2009. Tens of thousands of families were living in refugee camps. They wanted to go back to the land they had owned before the war. But the war destroyed community life, relationships and houses. When people went home, they lived in simple shelters often with no electricity or other services.

So the Indian government offered to help (probably because millions of Tamils lived in southern India). They started the '50,000 Houses' project in 2012. They gave $240 million to development programmes and to help people build their own houses. They aim to help get 50,000 houses for 225,000 people. So far 45,200 houses are complete.

This self-help approach started more similar projects. Owners control the building, not building companies. The government gave money to many families to build. People became more confident because they could make their own decisions and manage the money. They have built good quality houses quickly, and they now have more confidence to face other challenges.

Many other groups helped: UN-Habitat, the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, Habitat for Humanity and Sri Lanka’s National Housing Development Authority.

Canada: The RAFT

The Raft is a drop-in centre and hostel for homeless young people in St Catharines, Ontario. This is a small town in area that grows fruit, 20 minutes by car from Niagara Falls. The Raft has supported thousands of young people, providing programmes and resources, and helping them to become independent.


Building and Social Housing Foundation

The centre started in 1994 after a group of people from all religions agreed that there was not enough help for homeless young people.

The money comes from community groups, churches and individual people. The RAFT began as a centre for young people to drop in five nights a week. Now it is also a hostel with 16 beds hostel and many other community youth projects.

They want to help young people take control of their lives, to build confidence and get young people involved in their community.

Australia: Geelong Project

Many different groups are working together on the Geelong Project: groups working on homelessness, youth justice, family violence, mental health, disability, education, employment, recreation, cultural diversity and aboriginal services.


Building and Social Housing Foundation

If they see a problem early, it is easier to help. And they will be able to reduce homelessness and the related social, emotional and health problems. To find the problems earlier, they need to find out about problems like: family conflict, mental health issues, unemployment, poverty, alcohol or drug issues and crime. And they also need to work on creating stronger protection in the community and in family relationships.

Early help can be early in the life of a child or early in the life of a problem. In both cases, they can help stop, or reduce, many of the problems related to homelessness. One of the challenges is to decide when to act and how to do it well. But one thing is clear: families are very important.

Jordan: Urban Shelter Project


Building and Social Housing Foundation

This project works with people who own buildings in Jordan. They work on buildings that people cannot live in to create homes. Then they let Syrian refugees live there, paying no rent for 18 months. The money is used to help prepare the buildings. This helps the local economy because it gives local people jobs. It also, of course, helps with housing. More than 5,000 housing units have been improved. This has given housing to more than 18,000 refugees and created more than 20,000 short-term jobs.

The Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC) gives money to help with the building work. The NRC also provides legal aid to Syrian refugees to help them with documents, refugee registration, and housing, land and property rights. The project has really helped the local economy with more than $10 million in new investment. They are still raising more money to work on other buildings.

Britain: Stonewall Housing

Since 1983 Stonewall Housing has provided housing advice, legal help and support for LGBT+ people. People often discriminate against them when they try to find housing they have enough money for. Stonewall makes people think and creates change so everyone can get equal help from services. Stonewall helps people who suffer from two types of discrimination, for example LGBT+ refugees and migrants.


Building and Social Housing Foundation

They run a free, confidential housing advice helpline; drop-in housing advice workshops; specialist and awareness training for people who work with and live in social housing; information to other agencies about housing for LGBT+ people; and fighting for their housing rights. Stonewall Housing wants to make sure that people live in safer homes, with no fear, where they can celebrate their identity and support each other. Their projects work with social inequalities, and help people to be involved in society.

Stonewall Housing has started many very good projects, for example one against Forced Marriage, ROAR (a project on domestic abuse) and Finding Safe Spaces (to help people who sleep on the streets).

Chile: The Resilient Social Housing Project


Building and Social Housing Foundation

The 2010 earthquake and tsunami destroyed more than 11,000 homes and other buildings on the Chilean coast. It destroyed communities and people’s lives and jobs. The original plan was to move people quickly into new housing away from the sea. But local communities did not want this. They wanted to stay where they were and to continue their traditional lifestyle of fishing and collecting algae.

So the Chilean government started this project. They asked local people whose houses had been destroyed for ideas. And as a result, they build 180 ‘stilt houses’ in 5 villages. They designed the new houses to survive natural disasters. They can survive earthquakes and, if there is a tsunami in future, people will be able to repair them quickly.

The Chilean government Ministry of Housing and Urban Development gave the money – about $25,000 for each house. So the people could buy the houses with no debt. The people who live there need to look after the houses, but this is much easier because they can still work and earn money from the sea.

This new way of organising social housing in Chile should become a model for new social housing projects across the country.

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