housing in GuatemalaGuatemala is a country rich with ancestral heritage and Indigenous peoples, but the poverty crisis has debilitated many of the citizens. Housing in Guatemala is undergoing a crisis, which has widened the housing gap to well over 1.8 million homes. With 54% of people living under the poverty line, housing access is a rarity. This also affects other major areas like sanitization, food security, finding jobs and accessing education. The main priorities of humanitarian organizations in Guatemala are housing, education and health care.

Bill McGahan

Bill McGahan is an Atlanta resident and involved community serviceman. McGahan is also the leader of an annual mission trip that takes high school students to create housing in Guatemala. The long-term commitment to building housing has also highlighted other areas of need. On the trips, students work alongside From Houses to Homes. The student volunteers spend their time holistically addressing the needs of Guatemalans, including health and education.


Housing in Guatemala is the essential building block to finding permanence and stability. Many Guatemalans live in inadequate housing, are homeless or depend on makeshift shelters built from gathered materials. Housing lessens the risk of diseases from fecal contamination, improves sanitation, strengthens physical security and provides warmth in winter months. These benefits are imperative to stabilizing external conditions and lessening poverty’s effects.

The mission trips each year incorporate the students from the very start of housing to the finishing touches. Each year the participants first raise the funds for building materials. Then the volunteers construct a house in as little as five days. At the end of the building projects, keys are handed to each family, which reflects a new reality for them. In this way, these students “don’t just build houses, they provide a home.”


A home is so much more than four walls and a roof. It is the place to help grow and nurture individuals, including a safe space for learning. Children in Guatemala face constant challenges to their education. The average Guatemalan education lasts only 3.5 years, 1.8 years for girls. Nine out of 10 schools have no books. Accordingly, the literacy rate in rural Guatemala is around 25%. Education is an investment in breaking a pattern of poverty, which is an opportunity not afforded to many Guatemalan children.

Children pulled out of school work as child laborers in agriculture. This provides short-term benefits to families in terms of income but has a high cost in the future when finding work. Contributions to local schools have long-term paybacks for children and their families. Children can further their education, secure future employment and create stable homes for themselves and future generations.

Health Care

Housing in Guatemala is relevant to health as well. The goal is to solve homelessness by providing homes, not hospital beds. Access to quality health care is imperative to providing housing stability. Guatemala needs to improve its health services in order to solve its housing issue, especially since they lack effective basic health care.

Clinical care for Guatemalans is often inaccessible, particularly in rural areas with limited technology. With approximately 0.93 physicians per 1,000 people, there are extreme limitations for medical professionals to see patients. Even in getting basic nutrition training or vaccinations, Guatemalans are severely lacking necessary access. Basic health care is a priority that will be a long-term struggle, but each advancement will create higher levels of care and access for the many Guatemalans in need.

Guatemala is readjusting its approach to finding better access to housing, health care and education, all of which are important for a home. Humanitarians, like Bill McGahan, are finding solutions and implementing institutions that will uplift Guatemalans. Increased housing in Guatemala has been encouraging stability, prosperity and new outlooks on life. The country is seeing great progress in eliminating poverty, one home at a time.

Eva Pound
Photo: Flickr

In the summer of 1996 as an eight year old boy, I was privileged to venture into downtown Atlanta during the Summer Olympic Games. I was amazed at my firsthand sight of the many sporting arenas, housing for international athletes, hotels and other buildings that were built in anticipation for the summer games. At that time I was not aware of the amount of money that was being spent for construction, security, planning and promotions by the city of Atlanta and other private enterprises to stage this worldwide event.

In anticipation for the Games, the city of Atlanta spent $209 million alone on the building of Olympic Stadium, an 85,000 seat stadium that held track and field events and the opening and closing ceremonies of the games. At the conclusion of the Olympics about 30,000 seats were removed from the stadium so that it could be converted into a baseball field, which was a more viable use of the venue. The renovated baseball stadium was renamed Turner Field and became the new home of the Atlanta Braves for the start of the 1997 season.

Since its completion, Turner Field has hosted 81 games each summer for the relatively successful Atlanta Braves and their passionate fan base. At only 17 years old, Turner Field is still newer than 14 of the other 29 ball parks used in Major League Baseball. It is still fully operational and relatively new but the Atlanta Braves are not pleased with the venue. On November 11 of this year, the Atlanta Braves announced that they had partnered with nearby Cobb County, Georgia for the building of a new baseball stadium, set to cost $672 million, of which $450 million is to be publicly financed by the county.

Atlanta’s stadium saga is just one example of municipalities that face the debate of the benefits of publicly financed stadiums. Proponents of them promise an increase in public revenue for the city in the form conventions, sporting events, jobs and retail shopping, but years of outside research has proven to be inconclusive on the economic impact of such projects. In 2017, 20 years after the completion of the once-proud stadium, the city of Atlanta will demolish Turner Field and use the land for another project.

Publicly Financed Stadiums are a risky bet for municipalities that could use the same funds for other more noble investments such as infrastructure improvements and education. Ironically Cobb County is the same county that is currently facing a $78 million deficit in its school system but is willing to fund $450 million on a baseball field. Time will tell if the diversion of funds for education towards a new stadium will be a wise investment for the community of Cobb County.

Travis Whinery