A huge housing challenge
Over the past 12 years, millions of people have been displaced and over 400,000 individuals are living in informal settlements in Syria. With sweltering temperatures in the summer and freezing conditions in winter, displaced people are left vulnerable and unprotected.
Concern’s team in northern Syria has been bringing unfinished homes up to a basic standard, including installing doors, windows, electricity and bathroom facilities. Through the program, an agreement is signed between the landlord and tenants, allowing them to live there rent-free for up to two years, in exchange for the work being carried out by Concern.
Each shelter costs about $1,000 to complete and so far nearly 10,000 people have been reached as part of the program.
“The most beautiful winter”
Last month, we met Azzam*, a man who was living in one of these shelters in Northern Syria with his wife, eight children, and daughter-in-law. They had been living in the unfinished apartment for three years.
“In winter, it was very, very cold because we had only blankets to put on the windows or the open holes in the walls. We didn’t have any doors so it was all open holes for rooms or for WC or for kitchen or for bathroom. Then in summer we would remove the blanket and just have open holes in the wall.”
“First Concern came and put all the doors and windows that you can see and with electricity, sewage system, water network, everything. After the house was finished, I spent the most beautiful winter after that, I started to pray for Concern. I feel like I have privacy in my life.”
Azzam added: “I can’t work like I did when I was younger and I have three blind children. They cannot support me.”
The joy of having a home
Jaafar is a structural engineer with Concern and said that high rents and a shortage of available houses have caused a housing crisis in Northern Syria.
He spoke about meeting one family who had been living in an old tent on a street and were overjoyed to have a home of their own, saying: “You cannot imagine the first moments which they enter in the shelter. They were in the street and now they have an apartment, and for free. You can see that their eyes were laughing and dancing.”
“It’s not only a shelter but it’s life-saving also.”
“Children are the ones who can express their emotions most because they cannot hide them. So, they are very happy, especially when they have some basic things like just a small mattress and are playing.”
“It’s a great emotion when you are providing this assistance to this homeless family. Sometimes you feel that your heart is dancing. It’s not only a shelter but it’s life-saving also. So, protecting them against all the circumstances, protection, privacy.”
* Names have been changed