After 15 years of homelessness, Gábor could move into a new home in Habitat for Humanity Hungary’s Housing First program last Christmas. Olympic champion Krisztián Berki, the ambassador of the program volunteered in the renovation works of Gábor’s new home. Krisztián, colleagues from Habitat Hungary, and the deputy mayor of Újpest a district of Budapest, that owns Gábor’s apartment, visited Gábor in his new home last week.
„Everything is really great here”
Living in a shanty in the woods is not easy: there is no running water, no electricity, no proper heating in the Winter, and personal security depends on the watchfulness of your guard dogs. “Everything is a struggle…, you really miss being comfortable”- Gábor told in an interview last Summer when the apartment he now calls home was being renovated. Moving into the apartment changed Gábor’s life dramatically. A year ago he would not have dreamt of ever having a proper home of his own. “Everything is really great here” – Gábor says as he is looking around his new home.
Gábor says he is most happy about the comfort his new home gives him, but this apartment means a lot more to him. There were countless occasions since he moved in that proved what a difference a reliable physical basis for planning your future, and an official permanent address make in your life. Gábor could actually reunite with his son because of the Housing First Program! They lost contact after Gábor became homeless because it was extremely difficult to find Gábor due to his changing stays, with no phone and address to reach him at, especially after his son’s phone number changed too. Gábor’s son finally learnt about his father’s new home from a TV program which allowed him to get in touch with his father again.
Work for your home
Gábor is one of ten people who got a new home last year in Habitat Hungary’s Housing First program, six of whom live in Újpest. “In this program, homeless people renovate social rental apartments owned by municipalities so that they can move in as tenants once construction is finished. Our clients receive great help from volunteers in construction. Clients are supported by our social worker throughout the project and beyond moving in to ensure they settle in well in their new community and they learn the skills you need as a tenant. The program is available for homeless people who live in the streets and other public spaces. We receive extraordinary support for this program from Twist Olivér Alapítvány who advertise the program among potential clients and help them apply. As a result of the success of this program, it will be continued in 2016, when we will renovate 4 apartments.” – explained András Szekér, Habitat for Humanity Hungary’s national director.
A potential, permanent solution for thousands of people
Habitat’s program proves that Housing First is a model that enables people to get a decent home of their own, after several years spent in homelessness. “I would be happy if more people who live in the street could get a new hope the way Gábor did!” – said Krisztián Berki, Olympic champion, the ambassador of Habitat Hungary’s Housing First program. Habitat Hungary is working in its advocacy program to create political support for national housing policies enabling Housing First which could create better opportunities for thousands of people like Gábor. Municipalities and the government need to buy into this concept which is why demonstration projects like Habitat Hungary’s program are vital for a better future for Hungary’s homeless population.
The main sponsors of Habitat Hungary’s Housing First Program are the Saint-Gobain Initiatives Foundation and Fondation Abbé Pierre. We are also grateful to the many volunteers from Hungary and abroad who helped our clients access their new homes.