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Serbian Shelters

I'm doing an assignment with USAID in Serbia looking at potential shelter interventions in the case of a future exodus of refugees from Kosovo. In addition to the conventional answers, I'm also asked to look at 'alternative' short-term housing models which are culturally appropriate and which could function in the difficult Serbian winter. I'm also looking for a 'summer model' which would not be a tent. I've looked at all the usual sources but would be interested in you had any new ideas (or sources) on the subject.



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This question was submitted to RedR TSS in 2007 and has been uploaded to KnowledgePoint for information.

Harriette Purchas gravatar imageHarriette Purchas ( 2014-01-27 13:11:17 +0000 )edit

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During 2000/ 2001 when I was briefly in Belgrade with Red Cross we visited refugee centres / camps which had been set up using surplus housing associated with large industrial complexes - in some cases the construction housing used for the complexes. This had advantages in some cases such as steam heating and even hot food supply from the factory / complexes ... as I recall these were at the time housing Croatian refugees ..... they were basic and in some cases not ideal, but in other cases provided adequate winter shelter - we were there in January. It may be worth finding out what is the status / use of such sites now.

You will be hard pressed to beat traditional housing in terms of dealing with the cold winters and variances to summer ..... simply put you need the tradition construction for heat mass ... so the question is given Serbia has had and will have refugee / returnee need for sometime .. why not challenge the "temporary" paradigm ... also refugee situations are vary rarely "temporary" ......... why not more solid basic housing that can be allocated temporarily to returnees for fixed periods based on need and reasonable transitions.

Temporary / short term may well not be that ... and with the patch up to winterise summer accommodation that has to have longer life, or upgrading temporary winter accommodation that needs to see more than "temporary" use ... could be more expensive, less suitable and culturally less satisfactory than challenging the "temporary" paradigm ....... alternative use of existing facilities (as first para above) or a more planned medium term solution may be desirable.



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I was in Vushtrri, Kosova in fall 99/ winter 00 working for ADRA on a USAID-funded project to provide winterized shelter. There were two models: for families whose houses were not too far gone (structurally unsound), we reroofed, installed windows and doors, and put families in. (The major problem was arson that had destroyed roofs, windows and doors. This worked best for single-story homes. In multi-story homes, the upper floor slabs were often rendered unsound by the fire.) The agreement was that anyone who received assistance had to host "guest" families for 6 months. The "urban" model (mainly Pristina) was to house families in unfinished housing units. We would "finish" them by installing windows and doors and providing wood-burning stoves, and roofing in some cases. The owners would benefit by the improvements, and guarantee housing for six months. I'm not sure that either of these would be a good model, but it might be worth looking at the current inventory of unfinished or vacant/abandoned housing stock in the areas that might receive displaced families. One drawback of the implementation was that different agencies in Vushtrri had different "packages" on offer. We provided roof framing and plastic sheeting, and one door and window per room, as well as a stipend for installation. World Vision, under the same program, provided material but no money, and the Arab KFOR contingent provided a full tile roof. In principle the community was divided into geographic regions for implementation, but all three groups breeched their boundaries. Needless to say, there was a good deal of "shopping" by some unscrupulous families looking to get as much as possible. I would strongly suggest that all implementing partners provide a consistent "package" and stick to their zones to keep things smoother.



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Existing buildings, factories, flats, workshops, train carriages etc. that can be used as accommodation. Host families and relatives


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Your request brings back memories of the massive shelter program in Kosovo, '98-'00, that I helped design. I've heard that some contingency planning was underway on a possible exodus to Serbia, but will confess that similar work elsewhere (e.g., Cuba, Zimbabwe, Afghanistan, Chad, etc.) has kept me quite busy, so I know few current details about the Serbian case.

Given the assumed likelihood that the exodus population will be almost entirely ethnic Serb, it is likely that strong social/familial ties exist in Serbia itself, which could as the basis for self-selected host-guest family (HGF) arrangements, which could be supported programmatically as a short-term alternative to housing construction. HGF arrangements have, at times, entailed some minor expansion of existing host family houses (e.g., closing in a back porch to create another room, or creating living space out of an attic, basement, or out building), but have typically featured upgrades to wat-san facilities, perhaps more beds and mattresses, food, fuel wood, pots and pans, i.e., a flexible package of assistance, as opposed to more conventional construction activity.

Support of HGF arrangements could be done either in winter or summer, and is thus not necessarily a season-based response. That said, the more structural end of the HGF spectrum could be viewed as a "one warm/dry room" form of shelter provision.

Other options come to mind, esp. those in response to the special needs of elderly and handicapped households, of which their are many among the Serb population in Kosovo. However, I'll stop here before going on, and instead request that you send an e-m with a bit more detail, as well as names of your USAID contacts here in DC that I might speak with, if needed.

Regards, Charles

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2014-01-20 16:28:12 +0000
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