Housing and Empowerment for Roma (HERO) Project

"Housing and Empowerment for Roma" (HERO) is a pilot project of the European Union for Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia, aiming to demonstrate a new investment model for socio-economic support of vulnerable groups, including marginalized Roma. The project is initiated by the European Parliament and is implemented by the European Commission in partnership with the Council of Europe Development Bank.

In Bulgaria, the project is implemented by the "Trust for Social Achievement" in partnership with Tokuda Bank, "Integro" association and the "Habitat Bulgaria" foundation. The model of the project includes measures to support access to housing and employment by combining microcredit for housing construction/renovation with capacity-building initiatives such as financial literacy training and support for employment and improving work skills.

HERO will be implemented in 2023-2024 and will cover about 200 beneficiaries in the municipalities of Botevgrad, Peshtera and Yablanitsa.

The methodology of the project embraces a results-based approach and is designed on the principles of integration, inclusiveness and participation so as to achieve measurable change in the life of Roma living in Botevgrad, Peshtera and Yablanitsa. The proposed methodology is tailored to the needs of the targeted communities and is planning on enabling local Roma residents to play an active role in the implementation of the proposed action. It is critical to ensure that Roma voices contribute to shaping the projected outcomes. In addition, the methodology is led by lessons learned, successful incubation and testing of innovative practices to bring homes into compliance and to improve the quality of life in Roma communities in Bulgaria. Furthermore, the methodology builds upon on mutual respect, democratic processes, co-ownership with local authorities and Roma communities, by empowering them through increasing their knowledge, skills, and improved understanding on finding a relevant, up-to-date solution of the long-term housing challenges for the Roma.

The gains of the proposed methodology of intervention will help build trust between local authorities, Roma communities, private business, other relevant stakeholders, and general society. Moreover, it will support future planning processes by laying the ground for elaborative engagement and commitment by everyone concerned, and ultimately will have longer term impact on strengthening local capacity. It is fully supported with already tested comprehensive training programs, including social and life skills, employment and motivation to job seekers, capacity building by coaching and mentoring of experts at local authorities. The core of it is focused on working one-to-one with job seekers and matching it with a potential employer looking to fill in available job vacancies. Activities include also thorough support for applying, including preparation for job interviews, and mentoring along the process of finding sustainable job placement. The target group of this activity will be Roma participating in the project from the three municipalities.

The life skills trainings are tailor-made interactive and practice-based, the material includes real-life examples and case studies in small groups and is understandable even for low-educated participants. We will provide workshops on 3 different topics: Family budget management, Home maintenance, Housing Energy Efficiency.

The Financial Literacy Training consists of two parts:1) “Family Budget Management training”, where participants easily learn how to manage their income and plan their future expenses, how to reduce unnecessary costs, and how to set and achieve their financial goals. Some of the topics: Family incomes, Family expenditure; Seasonal expenses; “Money thieves”; Emergency events and family emergency fund; Setting up financial goals 2) “Types of Financial Products” builds on the first part with topics related to: Savings management, Smart borrowing and Management of loans from banking institutions, Credit pricing, APR, What to do in case of insolvency; Insurance products and more.

The Home maintenance training workshop provides knowledge and easy practical solutions on how to properly maintain the building and prioritize the needed repairs in order to secure safe, healthy and comfortable environment for the inhabitants. The workshop curricula includes topics such as: Legal and informal buildings- advantages and disadvantages; Investment process – steps to be followed for the legal construction and major improvements; Step by step construction process of a building; How to assess the need of repairs and the type of repairs; Safety home environment ;Major housing problems and possible solutions; Sanitary conditions, water and sewage. The Housing Energy Efficiency training provides basic knowledge on how to keep any home warm and comfortable enough with less resources. The workshop curricula include topics such as: •What does energy efficiency mean; What steps to take to make our home energy efficient; How to save on household electricity etc.

End beneficiaries will also be able to actively participate in the strengthening and renovating their house dwellings, dive deeply in experiential learning, and thus nurture an attitude of problem-solving, knowledge sharing, and improved skills, with specialized guidance by technical and legal experts.

Expected results

  • 25  micro-loans approved for marginalized Roma for self-construction of housing (renovation)
  • 30 saving schemes (set up and successfully concluded)           
  • 200 Roma will receive financial literacy trainings
  • 25 house constructions/renovations initiated   
  • 30 Roma will be supported to find a job
  • 150 Roma will receive training and career consultations
  • 10  Number of coaching sessions/training provided to local authorities