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 2010, an earthquake killed over 200,000 Haitians and left crumbling housing infrastructure. Since then, homelessness in Haiti has steadily declined but more than 85,000 people still remain without a home. Rebuilding from the damage is the toughest task for the poorest country in the Americas.

Before the earthquake, Haitians lived in relatively poor housing built from inadequate materials. Haiti ranks near the bottom in the world in providing shelter for their citizens. Shelter includes availability of affordable housing, access to electricity, quality of electricity supply, and household air pollution attributable deaths.

The international community has been very supportive of Haiti. The EU provided $996 million to Haiti from 2008 to 2013. Money that was used for roads, education, food security, human rights, agricultural, electricity, and trade.

On a smaller level, charities and volunteers have been a strong driving force for recovery in Haiti.

Mission of Hope Haiti, a Christian missionary organization, provides education for people in the island nation. The organization has a partnership with Hope for Haiti, and the government in Haiti to build homes. Recently, Mission of Hope celebrated its 500th home built for the affected families since 2010, an average of 100 homes each year.

Every house has three rooms, land for farming, detached bathroom, access to education, water, two fruit trees, and agricultural training. The cost of each home is relatively low at $6,000.

Mission of Hope has educated 6,000 children, provided 91,000 nutritious meals each day, and housing for hearing-impaired families. Their work has helped make Leveque one of the best settlements in Haiti.

“Our vision from the first home built has been to provide those who lost their homes with a quality, cost efficient Haitian home that will not only provide a place to live but a place to thrive,” said Mission of Hope President Brad Johnson.

Homelessness in Haiti is still a serious threat to human security, but organizations like Mission of Hope provide solutions and help that will benefit thousands of people’s lives.

Donald Gering

Sources: EurActiv, Good News Network, Huffington Post, Social Progress Imperative
Photo: Google Images