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In Poland: Habitat for Humanity built eight apartment buildings for 69 families

This article appeared in the Polish newspaper Wyborcza after Habitat for Humanity completed eight apartment buildings in Gliwice in September this year.

The house located in Orion Street in Gliwice, Poland, is the last house built by the residents and Habitat for Humanity Gliwice volunteers.

The handing over of the last of the houses on Oriona Street in Gliwice calls for a celebration.

Habitat for Humanity in Gliwice helps families that live in difficult conditions and have no money to buy their own houses. But there is nothing for free. Future residents are required to work 750 hours at the construction site. Later, they also need to pay installments as part of their interest-free loan obligation. Much lower than in the case of a commercial loan, these payments vary with the apartment size and amount to PLN 320-500 per month on average.

“Normally we wouldn’t have the chance to have our own place” admits Mr. Józef Drewniak who received the keys to one of the apartments last week. He moved to the house on Oriona Street with his wife Urszula and their three daughters. Until last week the Drewniaks lived in a substitute apartment because the previous one was flooded. The five of them lived in a 40-square-meter space and they only managed to fit three armchairs and a desk in the girls’ room. Now they will move into a two-level 80 square meters apartment. “We all worked. I found out what roof rafters are and I learned about finishing plastering with a trowel. It was easier for my husband since he’s a construction worker” laughs Mrs. Urszula Drewniak who is an office worker.

The houses located on Oriona Street were all constructed with the hands of the residents, the homeless learning the profession and volunteers from around the world. “This year there were groups from the USA, Germany and Canada. All the time someone leaves and others come. We only hire professional construction companies for work concerning electricity, building the roofs and ceilings. The rest was done by amateurs, but it’s all solid work” says Mr. Damian Klimek, the main specialist at the construction site overseeing the work as the master-builder.

The handing over of the last of the houses on Oriona Street was observed by residents that had moved there in previous years. “This is a peaceful neighborhood with a forest reserve nearby. At last you’re in your own place and not at your parents’ house” emphasizes Mrs. Sylwia Przepaźniak, who along with her husband and two children has been living here for the last three years.

Habitat for Humanity has built a total of 8 multi-family houses for 69 families in Gliwice, however the chances for new ones are slim. Mr. Michał Łobos from Habitat for Humanity Gliwice emphasized that the investment in Gliwice was only possible thanks to the city authorities who had granted Habitat the land under favorable conditions in the early ‘90s.“The land is the major problem now. Nowadays a tender needs to be called and we simply stand no chances to win it competing with private investors. To start another building, we can only hope for some donations,” stresses Łobos.

He adds that lack of land doesn’t mean the branch in Gliwice will stop operating. The foundation will now switch its focus from construction to renovation. “It is the sort of activity we’ve conducted together with new building. We are starting our first major project next month. Together with the INTEGRO Foundation we will conduct renovation and repair works in an orphanage founded by Ms Eva von Tiele-Winkler in Bytom. A shelter for homeless women will be started there,” adds Łobos.

Jacek Madeja, Katowice

What is next?
Habitat wants people not only to read about poverty housing but do something to fight it. You can support Habitat’s work in Europe and Central Asia in a number of ways. Here are some examples:

• Visit our donations page to support projects in Poland.
• Go to country profile pages to learn about other programs in this country.

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