Two groups have their sights set on rebuilding Latin America and Puerto Rico, one home at a time.
Home4Home, working with developers, is helping to build housing for families in need, starting in Argentina and expanding to 19 countries within Latin America. Home4Home is an offshoot of TECHO, a nonprofit that has been working in this field for 20 years.
Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico is taking a different tack — sending 2,000 shelter relief kits to key municipalities in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria.
The groups are trying to make a difference for some of the 165 million people living in poverty in Latin America.
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In the case of Home4Home, the premise is simple: For every property sold to a developer, that developer would donate a transitional home for a family living in poverty. The developers can choose which region they want their home to be built in.
“All the families in the Home4Home program are in extreme poverty with no place to live and who simply didn’t have the luck many of us have,” said Andres Klein, the creator of Home4Home. “Without this, they would be living in the slums with no electricity, water, no floor, nothing. This transitional home, it’s a huge difference for them.”
Klein is the founder and president of BH Investment Group, a Miami and New York real estate private equity firm that partnered with TECHO to develop Home4Home.
To date, Home4Home has given five families in Argentina a path to rebuild their lives through a new home.
Natalia and Jorge Mijares and their three small children were forced out of their home in Lagomarsino, Argentina, a few months ago. With nowhere to go, they faced living on the streets or in the slums. But their fate turned when they received a new home from Home4Home.
“I’m so happy knowing my family now has a home,” says Jorge Mijares, who works part time in construction while his wife cares for the children.
Andrea Pires and Ricardo Juarez have three sons. They, too, received a new home in Argentina earlier this year. Pires works as a hairdresser. To give back, she says she is thinking about giving hairdressing lessons to everyone in the community.
The second phase of the program is to make sure the families are able to provide for themselves.
Thanks to TECHO, Home4Home has a volunteer network of nearly 80,000 people. They’re not only helping to build homes, but they’re teaching the families skills based on the work available in the region.
“You have to teach them and push them in the right direction; to give them a home is not enough,” Klein said.
Klein was born in Argentina. While living in Miami for the past seven years, he would return to Argentina with his two children and was taken aback by the living conditions he saw. He also made a point of showing them to his children, comparing their Miami lifestyle with those living in poverty in Argentina. Those trips led him to develop Home4Home.
“You go and meet with these people and see the happiness and pride on their faces after getting out of the slums — it puts you to tears,” says Klein. “Seeing how they feel and understanding how you are changing their lives for me is like magic, pure magic.”
While one of Home4Home’s next steps is to help with the relief efforts in Puerto Rico, Habitat for Humanity is doing just that after Hurricane Maria, the worst storm to hit the island in 80 years.
Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico is still in the first phase of its “Habitat Hammers Back” initiative. Last week, the nonprofit started sending 2,000 repair kits to areas in Puerto Rico they determined were in the most need of help. Those kits, which include saws, hammers, nails, and large tarps for temporary roof repairs, were sent to the Caguas and Guayama municipalities, two areas that were severely hit by Maria.
Amanda Silva, executive director of Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico, says their long-term goal is to build sustainable housing, but food, power and water comes first.
“This is completely unprecedented; it’s been 80 years since we had a hurricane this powerful,” Silva said. “The main problem is the rain and winds hit the whole island, so logistically it’s very hard to do relief efforts when you don’t have a safe area of the island to stake your response from.”
Once they sort out the immediate needs of food, water, power and health issues, the nonprofit can begin targeting homes for construction. They hope to begin in January, with a goal of five homes in San Juan.
When Habitat for Humanity Puerto Rico finally reaches that point, Silva says they want the families to be part of the process and help with the construction.
“It’s important because it’s not a hand-me-down. It’s a leg up and a partnership, so the family truly feels like they worked for it,” says Silva. “It gives them equity and helps them succeed in life.”