A House is something visible. It is a place in which to be.
An address in a neighborhood. It is the site where loved ones live. It is where children study, play, and grow. It is where friends and family come to visit.
A Habitat homeowner in the western Ugandan city of Kasese once said, “There is nobody who is peaceful without a house.”
A house is incredibly important to a family. A house is to a family what soil is to a plant. It is a place to be rooted, a foundation on which children can grow, develop, and become all that God intended.
But millions of people all over the world do not have a decent house in which to live. The United Nations estimates that as many as a billion and a half people live in inadequate housing. A hundred million people have no house at all. They are homeless.
Even in developed countries like the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, or New Zealand there are thousands of families who have no decent place to live. In developing countries the number of families living in substandard housing are much greater.
We in Habitat for Humanity believe this sad situation is a disgrace. And we are committed to transforming that disgrace into grace. We believe every person, every family should have at least a simple, decent place in which to live. That’s why our goal is to eliminate poverty housing from the face of the earth.
We aren’t the only ones who have noticed the problem and are working toward solutions. Eliminating poverty housing from the earth is also the goal of the United Nations Habitat program. In June 1996, national leaders from one hundred and seventy-one countries met in Istanbul, Turkey, for the second United Nations Conference on Human Settlements (Habitat II). I was privileged to be a plenary speaker at that conference. The Istanbul conference had two themes: “adequate shelter for all” and “sustainable human settlements development in an urbanizing world.” The paper that resulted from the 1996 conference is called the Habitat Agenda. Government representatives, private sector people, nongovernmental leaders, and individuals from community-based organizations worked together to present a vision for affordable housing for all.