The sustainable renewal of Roma settlements model

A Roma family builds their own house.

Roma people are among the most vulnerable social groups in Serbia. It is estimated that there are around 600 Roma settlements in Serbia today, with nearly 380,000 Roma living in them. Housing conditions in these settlements are below the public infrastructural and sanitary minimum. Instead of living in houses made of solid construction materials, the families live in makeshift temporary housing units with no water, bathrooms/toilets or electricity in them.

Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization, Novi Sad, Serbia through its program of the Roma Resource Centre (EHO RRC) and in close cooperation with Swiss partners – HEKS, has developed a unique methodology of infrastructural problem solving in Roma settlements, as well as dealing with their legalization.

The Sustainable Renewal of Roma Settlements model is a comprehensive approach to actual problem-solving, including participative operation methods involving all interested stakeholders in the process. The Model has been designed as a Participatory Low Cost Dweller Driven Settlement Upgrading Approach.

The representatives of the Roma community have a key role in this model of work, contributing thus actively to the sustainability of the overall process.

Key elements of the Model:

Participation: The model works only if the residents of the Roma settlements participate in it. The project is planned and devised exclusively in collaboration with the Roma, who are the key decision makers in it, and with participation of the local authorities throughout the process.

Flexibility: The model provides solutions and project packages suitable for all beneficiaries – Roma. Enabling individual planning according to the residents’ actual and specific needs this model strengthens their feeling of ownership over the process and offers the Roma the opportunity to decide on the various project phases on their own.

Sustainability: Striving towards empowerment of its target group and promotion of its active involvement in throughout the process, this model of work enables the Roma to take over the responsibility for project implementation. The vocational and on-the-job trainings, employment and self-employment programs increase the competitiveness of the Roma in the labor market, also enabling for more economic independence and personal integrity.

Cost-effectiveness: For every 1,500 EUR project investments in construction material for housing improvement the Roma invest another 1,000 EUR worth of their own labor doing construction work or providing second-hand construction material.

Comprehensiveness: The model of work has been developed along the lines of the Serbian National Housing Action Plan, but it also involves other activities in advocacy, education, vocational training and self-employment. All project activities aim at capacity and resource building of the Roma, contributing thus to the development of the local community in general

This Model has been successfully tested and implemented in 13 Roma Settlements / Neighbourhoods in AP Vojvodina, in close cooperation with Roma communities, Local Government and Government of the AP Vojvodina, during the period of 2008. – 2012 and thus enabled 550 Roma families to bring in sanitation minimum and improve living conditions.

By Robert Bu
Deputy Director
Ecumenical Humanitarian Organization

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