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Dublin: 15 °C Monday 22 April, 2019

How a volunteer scheme is finding housing solutions for Ireland

Global charity Habitat for Humanity was set up in 1976, but has had an Irish branch since 2002. We found out more about the work they do in housing people around the world.

Parents Keith Greene and Jennifer Clail with their son Nathan aged 3yrs from the window of their new home in Inchicore, Dublin, which has been renovated by Habitat for Humanity Ireland in partnership with Dublin City Council.
Parents Keith Greene and Jennifer Clail with their son Nathan aged 3yrs from the window of their new home in Inchicore, Dublin, which has been renovated by Habitat for Humanity Ireland in partnership with Dublin City Council.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

A GLOBAL CHARITY that is celebrating 10 years in Ireland this year has seen its efforts to provide homes recognised by President Michael D Higgins.

Habitat for Humanity describes itself as a global leader in addressing poverty housing and has helped to improve the lives of over 2 million people in more than 90 countries around the world. It does this by working in partnership with volunteers, families and communities to provide them with safe, decent, affordable housing.

Habitat Ireland

Habitat for Humanity was founded by Millard and Linda Fuller in 1976 in the United States, and the Irish branch was set up in 2002.  Its founder, Patrick Linder, travelled with colleagues to Africa with Habitat Northern Ireland in 2002. On their return they decided there was a need in the Republic of Ireland for such a charity and set one up in Dublin.

It has two programmes, one involving work in Ireland and one where volunteers are sent overseas. Last week saw the completion of a project in Inchicore, which was visited by President Michael D Higgins. The project was part of an ongoing partnership with Dublin City Council and involved two houses, which were derelict for five years, being renovated. These will soon become home to two families who can come off the Dublin City Council housing list, Jeannie McCann of Habitat Ireland explained.

The families now have apartments within the buildings, and are paying off a small mortgage as well as contributing “sweat equity” where they work alongside the volunteers in renovating the new home. “We give them a hand up, not a hand out,” explained McCann.


Around 2,500 volunteer hours went into the renovation of the homes, with volunteers coming from the local community and corporate sector, said McCann. There were even donations of items such as paint to help with the work.

In 2005, Habitat for Humanity renovated four houses in Ballymun, which was its first partnership with the council. “It has gone very well, we’re looking forward to keeping this partnership with Dublin City Council,” said McCann.

The charity also partners with other non-profits to renovate their housing facilities for clients, such as St Michael’s house in Finglas, where three service users will get to live independently. “It is a huge step for those three men,” said McCann.

Having a range of housing solutions is part of what we do. Each family and individual has very specific needs.

The Inchicore project was launched in December 2010 – though the renovation itself doesn’t take very long, there are some legal processes that take time, such as getting mortgages for the new tenants.


Since the charity was set up in Ireland, 2000 volunteers have worked on its Irish projects and a further 2000 have gone overseas, including Brent Pope and his team of ‘rugby superstars’.

People don’t need a specific skill to go out and partner with a group overseas, and can travel to countries such as India, Paraguay or Ethiopia for 1-4 weeks, where they partner with local families and Habitat groups.

They work with families on site, they live in local communities and get a sense of culture and the challenges there. They come back with a deeper understanding of that country.

McCann added that the volunteers act as an ambassador for Ireland, and come back as an ambassador for the country they have visited. Since 1976 Habitat for Humanity has supported 500,000 families to improve shelter conditions.

All materials used are sourced in the local community and sustainable local expertise is used so the projects can be sustainable, said McCann. It also works in disaster response, from providing emergency shelter kits to constructing homes in Haiti following the earthquake.

Of the well-known ambassadors who work with the charity, McCann said:

It’s fantastic to raise awareness of it all over the word. It gives great endorsement to our work.
It was very humbling to have President Higgins visit Inchicore and see all the work the volunteers did. Also Brent Pope and his rugby legends go to Zambia every year. It brings people together from all different walks of life and raises awareness of poverty housing

There are six people working in the office and also two volunteers. “Volunteers are all different ages for overseas trips, from Transition Year students right through to people who have retired,” said McCann.

Overall, the work Habitat for Humanity does is to provide shelter to those who need it. “Our vision is a world where everyone has a decent place to live,” said McCann of the charity’s ethos.

How a volunteer scheme is finding housing solutions for Ireland
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  • House in Inchicore

  • Stairway

  • Before

  • Before

  • Before picture

  • Inside their new home

  • President Higgins visits

  • New home

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