Taking care of the most vulnerable in Bulgaria -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Taking care of the most vulnerable in Bulgaria

By Katerina Bezgachina

Habitat for Humanity in the region of Europe and Central Asia has begun to focus on working with vulnerable groups to ensure their health and decent housing. In many countries, mentally and physically challenged people are considered unreliable clients by banks and thus have very little access to commercial credit. At the same time, governments and socials services have no funds to assist them.

Habitat’s approach is two-pronged: building new housing design features that meet their special needs or providing loans to adapt their current homes. To better address the issue, Habitat partners with like-minded organizations or specialized government service providers that offer health services to vulnerable groups and recognize inadequate housing as a root of poverty.

One recent example is a project in Sofia, Bulgaria, to help 20 families with disabled children. In a developing country, where there is an acute lack of infrastructure and specialists to deal with the disabled, having a handicapped child puts enormous stress on parents. These children require round-the clock assistance, as they cannot go out alone―stairs, elevators or building entrances are not adjusted for wheelchairs. Moreover, they are not free even in their own homes, as corridors and doors are too narrow and there are no holding devices in bathrooms and toilets.

Working in cooperation with the foundation Center for Hope, Habitat Bulgaria is providing support for these families. Apartments will be reconstructed to meet special needs―with wider doors, extra spaces, holding devices in bathrooms and toilets, sockets and switches at accessible heights.

Renovation costs will vary from family to family. The project is designed to provide partner families with a non-profit loan―on average about US$2,500―to cover part of the expenses. The rest will be drawn from external matching funds or from down payments. Families will be repaying US$55 per month over the period of three to five years.

As always with Habitat, partnering and volunteering will be necessary components of the program. Homeowners will be actively involved at various stages of the project, including the selection of the construction company, monitoring of the implementation and collection of additional funds. Work will run for an estimated seven months.

Katerina Bezgachina is the public relations and media manager for Habitat’s Europe and Central Asia area office.