Prevention of Child Abandonment

Habitat Bulgaria has been designing and developing a model for supporting the improvement of the housing conditions of one of the most vulnerable groups – families at risk and low-income families raising minors, since 2008. In more than 10 years the model experienced several development stages and evolved into a partnership model for microfinancing of home improvements for low-income families with a proven track-record of success.

• 2008 – Small pilot initiative

The program started in 2008 as an initiative for the improvement of the living conditions of at risk children in the region of Stara Zagora. Habitat Bulgaria joined a consortium of organizations working in the Municipality of Stara Zagora, which implemented a program designed to offer holistic support to children and families at risk of deinstitutionalization and prevention of abandonment. The goal of the program was to develop a model of social practices, aimed at the identification of the problems of children and families at risk at the earliest possible stage and the timely provision of support for receiving means for medical expenditures, state subsidies and family counseling. Each of the organizations in the consortium offered services and solutions, compliant with its line of business, and targeted to solving the problems of at risk children and families. The main goal was to provide multidisciplinary support with a long-term affect.

The role, which Habitat Bulgaria played in the consortium, was to support the improvement of the housing conditions by providing small interest-free loans for urgent repairs. Habitat Bulgaria capitalized a fund for home improvements, managed by “Samaryani” Assosiation. A methodology for the selection of the borrowers, the lending, the repayment and the revolving of the home improvements fund was developed. An important component for the successful implementation of the program was the cooperation with the local municipalities and the mayors, as well the direct work with the community, facilitated by a local assistant. The program was implemented in 2008 – 2012 in the villages of Hrishteni and Han Asparuhovo, where the total of 53 loans in the amount of 23,535 Leva were made.

• 2009 – 2010: Multiplication of the model in other regions

The microfinancing model, offered by Habitat Bulgaria, was an innovative and unique practice in Bulgaria, which motivated its adaptation and replication in other regions of the country in partnership with local non-governmental organizations, as follows: in the region of Dupnitsa, in partnership with “Amala – Priyateli” Assosiation; in the region of Pleven, in partnership with Pleven Civic Fund “Chitalishta”; in the region of Rakitovo, in partnership with “Badeshte” Foundation. In 2008 – 2010 the funding for construction materials and home repairs amounted to approximately 74,000 Leva.

• 2011 – 2012: Expansion of the target group and the territorial coverage

The program activities continued in 2011 within the project “Improvement of the Housing Conditions by Interest-free Microfinancing for Low-income Families”. The project aimed overall community support for vulnerable groups of the population. The target group was expanded from at risk families to low-income families raising children. The model is implemented in 9 regions. The home improvement funds, managed by the local partner organizations amount to 140,000 Leva. Thanks to the revolving nature of the funds, the money allocated to repairs and home improvements total 270,000 Leva.

The improvement of the housing conditions is achieved by incremental interventions. The approved loans for small and urgent repairs are complemented by technical support and supervision. The loan amounts as well the repairs are relatively small, however they have positive effect at both the health status and the self-esteem of the supported families. The beneficiaries receive the funds needed for the repairs in the form of interest-free loans varying from 200 to 1,000 Leva. The loans are repaid in small monthly installments in 12 months. The loans are allowed with the only purpose of financing home repairs and the proper use is observed and documented at the “before” and “after” stages of the process. The home improvement funds are managed by the local partners of Habitat Bulgaria – non-governmental organizations providing social, healthcare, educational and other support services in the communities. The process follows particular steps, such as: assessment of the housing need and prioritization of the measures; counseling for the needed construction works; selection of beneficiary families by a joint selection committee of representatives of Habitat Bulgaria and the local partner organization; assistance for the purchase of the needed construction materials; collection of the monthly installments; monitoring and evaluation of the construction activities. The home improvement funds are revolving – the monthly installments are paid back to the funds and finance the next beneficiaries.

The model gained popularity thanks to its innovative and sustainable nature, replicability and holistic approach to solving the problems of the target groups and communities. The model was included in several compendiums of good practices and received prestigious rewards:

The Award of the International Board of Directors of Habitat for Humanity for partnership development for the project “Home Improvements for the Prevention of the Abandonment of Children”;
The Award “Best Project of the Year in 2010” of “Lale” Foundation for the initiative “Loans for Home Improvements for Low-income Families – Partnerships in Action”.

• 2014 – 2020: Complex measures for home improvements and community support

Since July 2014, the activities continued within the project “Social protection and alleviation from deprivation for at-risk children and adolescents in Bulgaria through improving living conditions and other community based support”, funded by the Velux Foundations. Five new partner organizations, besides the ones already delivering project activities, were attracted.

The core model for interest-free microfinancing remained and was upgraded by additional services aiming at the achievement of a complex and holistic impact on the improvement of the living conditions of low-income families:

Life skills trainings: Habitat Bulgaria developed three innovative training modules: “Management of the Family Budget”, “Energy Efficiency of the Home”, “Improvement of the Living Conditions at Home – Problems and Solutions”;
Grant funding of local initiatives with societal importance: At the end of each contractual year, the local partner organizations are given the opportunity to receive grants of up to 25 per cent of the home improvement fund they manage. The focus of the services, grant-funded by Habitat Bulgaria, is on the improvement of the living conditions and the childhood development in the communities.;
• Support for children: Habitat Bulgaria developed an innovative knowledge board game “The Neighbourhood” in 2015. The board game allows children of school age to gain knowledge about seemingly complex notions, such as: saving of resources, energy efficiency, hygiene, saving of money. The game may be used in extracurricular activities and also played by the families at home.

For more information: Interest-free financing and community development