Supported, safe, independent living:
Understanding that ‘refugee’ and ‘homeless’ are not identities, but rather legal categorisations of a human being – a human with a life, skills, dreams, abilities and capacities as well as specific needs-the housing project focussed on people as individuals, their rights and their hopes, rather than a group with a permanent ‘label’. The project created a safe, dignified alternative to refugee camps and life on the streets as a ‘stepping stone’ towards an integrated, independent future, rather than a permanent and passive ‘home’ for vulnerable people.
Working with the people who the project was for as equal partners and including environmental considerations in all aspects of planning, the project was so successful at supporting independent living that after 2018, it was no longer required.
Through collective planning, shared skills and offering holistic support (housing, legal assistance, medical care, social integration, job skills training etc.) as well as encouraging all participants to contribute their knowledge, time, capacities and willingness to learn and work, the project was run with the residents, not just ‘for’ them.
The aim was to improve the quality of life for people affected by migration and homelessness, but to do so by empowering them to be the central actors in defining their needs, pursuing their goals and determining their own futures.
100% of the residents of the accommodation reported an improvement in their quality of life after involvement in the project and 100% of the residents likewise responded that they ‘felt safe’ in the housing project.
During their stay in the housing, all of the children in the project attended Greek mainstream schools (unique among refugee integration work in Northern Greece) and all of the adults were involved in activities with the local community.
All of the construction and maintenance work as well as sourcing of furniture and paints, was carried out with the highest levels of ecological consciousness. The work was undertaken either by the residents themselves or local businesses and craftspeople, thus supporting local businesses and the neighbourhood’s economy.
Residents were given responsibilities within the housing project and were also given training on environmental issues of energy and water conservation as well as waste management within their independent apartments.
The project was carried out in partnership with 7 organisations in order to provide a comprehensive programme for all residents and offer access to all necessary services.
– Medecins du Monde (MDM) staffed the on-site weekly medical clinic and provided vaccinations for children.
-Nurture Project International organised pre- and post-natal care and infant milk.
-Mobile Info Team provided asylum advice to residents every 2 weeks. They monitored all cases and offer vital information.
-IsraeAid provided psycho-social support and child development courses for certified qualifications. They developed a kindergarten which was then run by residents for residents’ children.
-Save the Children provided educational classes (English, Greek, math) for those up to the age of 24, ran activities for children 3 years and older, hosted a mother & baby group once a week, and was responsible for case management of children and youth.
-Care International was responsible for implementing the cash card programme to all of the residents.
-Intersos provided grant funding for the initial development of the social space and renewed funding for community events, art workshops, and day trips to encourage and empower integration into Greek community
All residents were issued with cash cards during their stay – allowing each family to make their own decisions about what to buy, cook, eat and enjoy-and all of the residents made use of the community social space (which was managed with the participation of the local host community)
The community social space consisted of 3 large spaces and a basement storage facility.
The flexibility of the spaces lent itself to all types of community events and a sense of common ownership was established. This empowered residents to create community-led events, such as birthday parties for children and other creative communal events.
The areas were used for a wide range of training classes, child care, creative activities, community meetings and service provision.
The Community Social Space consisted of 3 large spaces and a basement storage facility.
- The first space was multi-use and was commonly used for the community
- cafe, art classes, and residents’ meetings.
- The second area was a dedicated children’s space.
- The third area was arranged into a 2-room medical clinic due to the privacy provided for community members. All medical and dental assessments took place there as well as the mother/baby group.
Previously, the space had been used for the Filoxenia Free Shop where residents could shop for fresh fruit and vegetables and other cooking items until the cash card program was implemented.
Collaborating partners provided consistent feedback that residents felt a sense of
belonging and community by being able to access this shared space.