Article by Lani.
At Habitat for Humanity, we believe that ending poverty starts with every human being having access to a safe and decent place to live.
According to World Vision, 9.2% of the world is in poverty. That means that almost 700 million people are surviving on less than $1.90 a day. In Australia alone, over 3 million people, or 1 in every 8 Australian’s, are living below the poverty line.
But poverty isn’t just about money. People living in poverty might lack access to basic human needs such as shelter and safety, education, clothing, food, clean water, and healthcare. And at Habitat, we do our bit by empowering the disadvantaged through building homes and communities.
But first – why is housing important?
The short answer – because it affects everything in a person’s life. Without a house, things that many people take for granted, like raising a family, securing a job, or making a meal, become almost impossible. Homelessness and poverty lead to increased rates of family and domestic violence, depression, health issues, food insecurity, child abuse and neglect. All the issues associated with poverty are inextricably linked to housing.
But when you have a stable place to call home, all other aspects of a person’s life begin to fall into place. Permanent housing can relieve economic stress and reduce rates of domestic violence and alcohol dependence. For many people, having a place to call home means that they can stay together with their families. For children, a house means avoiding lifelong poverty. It means a safe place to sleep and a place where they feel like they belong. Access to housing means a better chance to obtain necessities like food, clothing, medicine, and sanitation. The stability of a house gives those in poverty the opportunity to build a decent life for themselves.
Research from the Urban Institute states that increasing access to housing could reduce child poverty by as much as 21%. Although housing alone might not solve poverty, it is a massive piece in the puzzle. For many, housing is not just a roof overhead, but a solid foundation for the future.
So, how bad is the problem?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Goals aim to eradicate extreme poverty for people across the globe by 2030. The UN, like Habitat, believes one of the first steps in doing this is providing clean and safe housing to every single person.
But the issues of poverty and homelessness are complicated and multifaceted. According to the Urban Institute, only one in four households who are eligible for housing vouchers actually receive them. They say waiting lists are often years long, sometimes even closed to further applications. People in dire situations are looking for help but not being able to access it. As a result, many end up homeless.
Although homelessness statistics started to improve before 2020, the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic means that millions of people worldwide are now without the essentials, and many can no longer afford the cost of living. The World Bank estimates that almost 200 million people were driven into poverty throughout 2020, with that number expected to grow further throughout 2021. With more and more people finding themselves without stable homes, rates of mental illness and domestic violence have also increased. In Australia, these issues, along with the competitive rental market, means safe and secure housing is even more difficult to obtain. Many people feel they have little choice, and many end up couch surfing…
What does Habitat Australia do to help end poverty?
At Habitat, our mission is to build strength, stability, and self-reliance through shelter. Unlike some other not-for-profits, we don’t just build a house for those in need and then move on. Instead, we work side by side with partner families building their homes together, focused on providing a ‘hand-up’ rather than a ‘hand-out’. Once a family has access to housing, they can create a home for themselves within a community. With a community comes support, hope, and the chance to build a better life.
Habitat works in Australia and overseas to provide shelter for vulnerable groups and low-income families. We ensure every family has access to clean water and sanitation, and even provide hygiene training to those in need. We have mobilised over 10,000 volunteers through our local volunteering program “Brush with Kindness” to build and repair homes in Australia.
Our overseas programs help low-income families living in inadequate housing to rebuild and repair their homes and their lives. In countries such as Cambodia, Nepal and Vietnam, Habitat helps partner families gain access to basic services and utilities such as water, sanitation and electricity through the stability of a house. A house is truly a transformative force when it comes to health, education, economic security, and overcoming poverty. For as little as AUD$3000, we can build a house for an entire family in the Asia Pacific.
With the help of our corporate and local partners, we refurbish crisis accommodation and emergency homeless shelters for women and children escaping domestic violence. Our disaster response and recovery programs help those affected by natural disasters such as the Australian bushfires to build back their houses, protecting hundreds of families from homelessness. A home is a foundation for change for our partnered families, and we are honoured to be a part of that process.
Of course, we’re driven by the vision where everyone has a safe and decent place to live. But Habitat is about more than just building houses. We want to play a role in eradicating poverty and be a part of the solution to the housing and shelter crisis many people face around the world. We want to help build not just homes, but communities, hope and livelihoods for those in need.
Housing alone isn’t going to eradicate poverty. But it’s a good place to start.
Help us in our mission to provide safe and decent housing and give today: https://www.habitat.org.au/how-you-can-help/donate/