People living below the poverty line, the elderly and those living with disabilities, often live in substandard conditions and subdivided flats that are as small as a parking lot.
The substandard conditions Jo Hayes witnessed when she joined Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong as their CEO in 2013, broke her heart. “I was shocked that people like 83-year old Grandpa Tong, living in Oi Man Estate, have to cope with dust in their food because of the peeling paint and crumbling walls.”
Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong is an international NGO with a vision of a world where everyone has a decent place to live. In Hong Kong, they provide home repairs, renovations and deep cleaning services for low-income elderly families and people with disabilities through their Project Home Works programme.
Project Home Works
Grandpa Tong’s living conditions were improved in 2020 when Habitat volunteers delivered a service day. Despite COVID, in the last year alone, Habitat Hong Kong has provided deep cleaning services for 392 families, renovated 46 homes and delivered 2,655 home hygiene kits.
“We believe that housing plays a central role in increasing people’s well-being and ability to thrive and we have expanded our services to include decluttering, deep cleaning and repairing floors,” added Hayes.
In recent years, developers have begun to address the problem of aging population and buildings. Chinachem Group has also made donations to Project Home Works and provided voluntary teams to help improve the living environment of low-income families.
Some might challenge why not just relocate elderly people to transitional housing instead of retrofitting an old building.
Hayes explained that whilst transitional housing provides a temporary solution, it doesn’t fix the systemic issues. “If we move people to a new area, we are cutting them off from their social support groups, the transportation routine they are used to and most importantly, their community.”
“To help people age with dignity in their existing home, we are starting to install age-friendly facilities like handrails and grab bars.”
Passing on to the Next Generation
Hayes believes that engaging youth as advocates for the cause of decent and affordable housing is the key to shaping the future of Hong Kong.
Habitat for Humanity Hong Kong recently launched a youth workshop to raise awareness of housing issues. “In the long run, we want to empower the community to help themselves and we hope that through intergenerational initiatives we can bring people together for better housing,” Hayes said, hoping for the best for the city of Hong Kong.