Magazine article New Internationalist

Raising the Roof

Magazine article New Internationalist

Raising the Roof

Article excerpt

Around the world people are fighting the stigma of homelessness and finding innovative shelter solutions. Here's a round-up of some of those inspired ideas and practices.



The Raft is a drop-in centre and hostel for homeless youth in St Catharines, Ontario, a small town in the province's fruit growing belt, a 20-minute drive from Niagara Falls. The Raft has supported thousands of young people, providing programmes and resources, and helping them to become independent and self-sufficient. \

The centre started in 1994 in response to an interfaith task force on the lack of services for at-risk and homeless youth. Funding comes from service clubs, community groups, churches and individuals. The RAFT began as a drop in centre operating five nights a week but has since expanded to include a 16-bed hostel as well as a range of community-based youth projects.

The community development initiatives are preventive, aimed at reducing the number of at-risk youth in the Niagara region. For example, their 'Eternal Routes programme' aims to reunite kids unable to live with their parents with relatives who are willing to provide them with the support they need to transition into adulthood and avoid homelessness.

The goal is to help young people take control of their lives, to build self-esteem and confidence while empowering them to become involved members of their community.


The Resilient Social Housing Project

The 2010 earthquake and tsunami destroyed more than 11,000 homes and other buildings on the Chilean coast - shattering communities and people's livelihoods. The original plan was to move people quickly into new housing away from the sea. But local communities weren't keen. They wanted to stay where they were and to continue their traditional lifestyle of fishing and collecting algae.

So a demonstration project was conceived. Local residents whose homes had been destroyed were canvassed for their ideas and input. As a result 180 'stilt houses' were built in 5 villages. The new houses were designed to survive natural disasters. They are earthquake proof and can be quickly and easily repaired if battered by future tsunamis.

The costs - about $25,000 per house - were covered by the Chilean government's Ministry of Housing and Urban Development. So the residents were able to acquire their new homes without going into debt. Annual upkeep is their responsibility, much easier since they continue to earn their living from the sea.

This pioneering approach to social housing in Chile has shifted the goal-posts and should become a model for new social housing initiatives across the country.


Stonewall Housing

Since 1983 Stonewall Housing has provided housing advice, advocacy and support for LGBT+ people who are frequently discriminated against when trying to find decent, affordable housing. Stonewall develops awareness and procedures that create equal access to services. People who are vulnerable to double discrimination, such as LGBT+ refugees and migrants, are also helped to overcome barriers in their housing search. Services include a free, confidential housing advice helpline; drop-in housing advice workshops; specialist and awareness training for social housing staff and tenants; providing consultancy and information to other agencies about housing for LGBT+ people; and lobbying and campaigning for their housing rights.

Stonewall Housing's aim is to ensure that people live in safer homes, free from fear, where they can celebrate their identity and support each other to achieve their full potential. Their projects focus on addressing social inequalities, helping their clients to stay engaged in wider society.

Stonewall Housing has launched a number of much-needed projects including one that challenged Forced Marriage, ROAR (a project on domestic abuse) and Finding Safe Spaces (aimed at rough sleepers). …

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