New homes and economic empowerment for vulnerable families in Pirot

May 24, 2024

Pirot, May 2024 - "The most important thing for me is that we were provided with a house, which has also been renovated. Before, we lived in poor conditions, all together in one room, and we did not have a bathroom", says Danilo, who lives in the Temska settlement, near Pirot and is a single father of five children.

Danilo's family received support through the project "Social Housing and Active Inclusion in Pirot," implemented by the City of Pirot as part of the "EU Support to Social Housing and Active Inclusion" Programme, funded by the European Union and implemented by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS) in Serbia.

In addition to a new and equipped home, Danilo also received income-generating tools and equipment. "I received a wood splitter, and I will also be provided with additional equipment, which will enable me to both split and cut wood," he explains.

As part of active inclusion measures, Danilo's children received support in education, helping them to better follow classes in different subjects. Dijana, who is in seventh grade, has already started preparations for the high school entrance exam and adds that in her free time, she enjoys making sweets.

"The project helped me a lot, especially during periods when the housing situation was more challenging for me," says Ljubisav, who is 21 years old and a beneficiary of the social care service Supported housing for youth leaving the social care system. 

In addition to new furniture and all necessary household appliances, Ljubisav also received support in employment through a paid internship, which he says will significantly help him in further work and development. 

"Internship at a restaurant is particularly meaningful to me because of the additional finances. Considering that I have been working in the hospitality sector for a long time, I have further improved my skills in working with people," he says, adding that he would like to open his coffee shop or restaurant in the future.

As part of the project in Pirot, 20 houses were reconstructed for the most vulnerable Roma families, as well as one apartment for youth leaving the social care system. Additionally, beneficiaries were supported through complementary active inclusion measures, including the provision of furniture and household appliances, support in education, income-generating tools, sports and IT equipment, and VET. 

"I plan to start a catering business, which will enable me to provide everything necessary for me and my children", says Vanja, who lives in Pirot with her husband and two daughters.

Vanja received support through career counselling sessions organised within the project. She adds that now, in the reconstructed house, she has adequate conditions for further developing her business, as well as the importance of receiving the necessary work equipment. 

"I completed a manicure course, and now I am starting a makeup course, planning to one day open a salon together with my sister," says Izabela.

Within the project, Izabela and Valentina are attending VET, which will help them improve their skills and provide them with additional support in employment and self-employment.

Apart from Pirot, social housing and active inclusion projects are being implemented in 18 more cities and municipalities in Serbia with the aim of providing adequate housing solutions for 360 of the most vulnerable families through the construction, purchase, and reconstruction of apartments and houses. The European Union has allocated 27 million euros for the EU SHAI program, which is implemented by UNOPS in Serbia. Beneficiaries are also supported through complementary measures of active inclusion tailored to individual needs, significantly contributing to better social inclusion.

Photographs: UNOPS Serbia, Citizens Association Ternipe