Portugal -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1
Rosa Coelho praises God that she no longer has to live in the shack visible through the window behind her in Cunha, Portugal.
Housing is a major concern of poor Portuguese families, with 65% of them living in dilapidated housing and 8.5% in shacks. One of the biggest challenges of HFH Portugal is to change the culture of subsidy dependency. The Governmental Social Housing Program has shown some effectiveness, in terms of numbers, on re-housing families that lived in poor conditions; but the nurturing and educational programs that should be given to these families after the re-housing do not exist. Social problems such as alcoholism, illiteracy, exclusion, lack of basic care and the creation of ‘social ghettos’ are not solved with this kind of assistance. Only by promoting the inclusiveness of these citizens in the community, and through educational and nurturing programs, is it possible to break this poverty cycle.
Poverty housing in Portugal is spread all over the country, with two distinctive kinds of housing: in the interior the ‘hidden poverty’ (typical Portuguese houses with a small orchard that hides the disgraceful housing conditions) and shacks in the big cities. Since the 1970’s Portugal has been the destination country for immigrants from the former Portuguese colonies and Brazil and, more recently, for immigrants from former Soviet Union countries. The need for housing is growing, especially in the urban areas of the country.
Habitat in Portugal
Concerned about the poverty housing in Braga, volunteers formed a Habitat for Humanity affiliate in Portugal in 1996. Two groups of international volunteers and local volunteers helped to build the first Habitat house in the town of Vieira do Minho, which was completed in 1999. The following year, HFH Braga started to build 12 homes in the town of Palmeira and completed another for a family in Cunha.
An international special event was held to help build the 12 houses - the “Portugal 2000 Build” – from July 1 to October 1, 2000. After dealing with challenges such as access to water and electricity, the 12 houses were completed in August 2002, and the families moved into the homes they helped to build. Although there was still a great need for simple, decent homes, HFH Braga struggled to find more land on which to build. So in 2002, they began renovating existing houses. The Veloso family moved into their Habitat home in 2003, while the Lopes family moved in a year later.
The homes are made of traditional Portuguese materials: bricks, red roof tiles, green shutters on the windows, and ceramic tiles inside the houses. They have two to three bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bathroom and are between 66m2 and 108m2 in size. The mortgage repayments are an average of US$120 over 25 years.
- HFH Braga started a partnership with local schools called “Solidarity School.” The aim of the project is to raise awareness about poverty housing in Braga.
- Global Village teams describe their trip to Braga as “wonderful experience.”
- The family nurture program has been successful in addressing issues such as family budgeting, and physical and alcohol abuses, among other socially important subjects.
- Good base of local volunteers that support the program, even though Portugal does not have a volunteer culture.
- Built first wheelchair accessible HFH home for a disabled homeowner.