Eyewitness Venezuela: Homelessness becoming thing of the past
Caracas, Venezuela – Groups of women, wearing blue hardhats, stand proudly in front of a five-floor building, surrounded by lush mountains. The community members are building 93 apartments for families in the area. 80% of the workers are women.
“We carry all the materials up on our backs, we are self-sufficient. We work together as a community,” said Melida Riva.
They came together and decided they wanted more housing to accommodate their growing community. They reached out to Misión Vivienda, a program started in 2011 to build millions of homes around Venezuela. Once approved, the government sent them the supplies, provided them training and helped supervise the project.
Riva relates, “A tourist said to me here, ‘I saw a couple homeless people here in Venezuela.’ I responded, ‘Nowhere near the number of homeless people you see in the USA. You will rarely see homeless people here because in the last ten years, through Misión Vivienda, our government has built over 3 million homes, and this is with the horrible blockade and economic warfare against us by the USA. You are the richest country in the world and you have homeless people all over your streets. And your homelessness is only increasing.’”
“Your government wants to help the rich people; our government fights to help the poor and working people,” Riva added.
The Misión Vivienda program, which the late-President Chavez started, and President Maduro expanded, has built 3.6 million houses for communities all over Venezuela. You can see many of these buildings all around Caracas because they have Chavez’s signature on them.
Even during the pandemic, the Venezuelan government continued to build housing through Misión Vivienda. Whereas in major cities in the U.S., there is rampant homelessness and housing prices are dramatically increasing. 20 to 30% of those in living in large U.S. cities were at risk of homelessness during the pandemic. Los Angeles has Skid Row, an entire homeless neighborhood, and 41,290 homeless people, according to the homelessness count in 2020.
“We are able to build this grand building thanks to the collaboration of the government and Commander Chavez and Nicolas Maduro, who started these programs to give accommodations and resources to those in need. The Gran Misión Vivienda, which started ten years ago, gives us rights and resources to make new housing a reality. We are building 93 apartments with two to three bedrooms. 80% of us constructing this building are women. It is not easy, but sí, se puede,” said Blanca Villegas, a community member.
Communities, often the commune councils, vote on these community-led projects. The projects are then carried out with the resources and/or funds from the government. Some communities choose to build playgrounds, community gardens, shops, factories, etc. Many of these communities have strong women leads, who advocate for the resources their pueblo needs.
Seeing these women, beaming with pride and unity, one feels the sense of community emanate from them. They are proud to have a voice and build the services their community needs.