Both Ends of the Spectrum

After a weekend of fun it’s right back to work for me. Today I saw two very distinct sides of the process of providing homes for people living in poverty; the beginnings of a permanent housing project and the completion of another.

This morning started as another exciting move-in day. Unlike the last, this one was a little premature requiring the presence of Carabineros (the Police of Chile). They patrolled the area as the families clumped together waiting for their names to be called. This permanent housing project is only half finished. The project is so large, housing 150 families that the construction still had a ways to go. The families of the finished houses however were too anxious and excited to move in that they had decided to do so without a ceremony. After arriving with the TECHO team, we attached key chains to each set of keys and were sent off to meet the 6 families we would be helping inspect their homes.


The families we met came prepared with light bulbs and hair dryers to test all the outlets and sockets making the process go a lot quicker than the last time. Again, when we entered we talked mostly to the mother or woman of the household asking her to sign a few papers stating the terms of their living. The houses were a little bigger than the last permanent housing project we visited. Each family had 3 bedrooms with a living room and a small kitchen. In almost every house we entered they had at least one window broken or light bulb not functioning correctly, which seemed like a lot to me. We documented the problems, congratulated the families and left them to plan where they would be putting all their furniture. Again, it was an amazing experience to see so many happy families, thrilled to have their houses ready to be occupied after waiting for the long process to come to a finish.


In the afternoon, after lunch, I accompanied my partner Felipe to two campamentos where we were collecting photocopies and documents from members of the communities in order to get the process of permanent housing rolling. The first community we visited, Felipe informed me was a very dangerous and unorganized one. The structures were all very close together and looked extremely run down and old with trash piled everywhere, a completely different sight than this morning. This campamento was very large housing around 300 families.


After visiting the Municipality Office of the city we embarked on a long drive through the mountains to another community to collect more documents. The drive was pretty, going through several touristic towns. We made it after about an hour and half of driving and met with the town secretary to collect the necessary paperwork for the meeting that would take place the next day with Serviu, the government permanent housing agency. When we arrived to the campamento we opened the doors of the car and it was freezing outside. Unprepared, with no scarf and ankle socks I couldn’t help but wonder how the families could handle this type of mountainous weather through the long winters in houses that were only meant to be shelters from the rain. I can’t imagine. The only thing setting me at ease was the idea of them moving into a permanent housing residency. Although it takes awhile, the hope that one day they will be handed a pair of keys of their own, with a TECHO key chain attached, brings a smile to my face. After arriving at home around 9pm, I couldn’t get the thought of those families, freezing in the mountains, out of my head. That and the fact that it is supposed to rain this weekend, I can’t imagine what that must be like.


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