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CNEWA-Jerusalem’s housing program began in 1992. Since its inception, about 250 people a year have requested help with renovations and additions. Rose gives their applications a preliminary screening based on factors like income and number of people per room, reviews each case with CNEWA’s Jerusalem staff, then follows up by visiting those who pass the screening.

“I also visit many who, at first, are given a low priority,” she told me, “because sometimes there will be cases of real need that the screening process might miss.”

Some of those most in need are elderly women living in buildings built long before the era of indoor plumbing. These buildings sometimes have an open interior courtyard with a communal toilet. Walking outside to use the bathroom during Jerusalem’s cold and rainy winter season is a hardship for the elderly.

Hanneh Iknomides is applying for help in obtaining indoor plumbing. Presently, she must use a primitive communal toilet some distance from her apartment. With her grant she plans to turn a small storage shed adjacent to her apartment into a bathroom and to improve her rundown kitchen. Plaster is falling on the apartment of Azizah Banurah, one of Hanneh’s elderly neighbors; Azizah will also apply for help.

CNEWA puts a limit of $5,000 on the amount it will grant to any one family and asks that 25 percent of the grant be repaid in monthly installments. About 90 percent of the people are able to make this repayment; the proceeds are accumulated and reserved for future grants. In 1997, more than $300,000 in grants were given to 103 families in Jerusalem and the West Bank, with funding coming from the Doty Foundation, Kinderhilfe Bethlehem and CNEWA.

Margaret Sakakini, an 85-year-old widow, has already benefited from the housing program. Formerly, there was a small wooden hut across from her apartment that served as both her kitchen and her bathroom; she had no hot water. The hut was torn down and rebuilt as a new kitchen and bathroom with a water heater. Now she is asking for additional help to cover over the walkway that links the bathroom to her bedroom.

Rose Karborani makes at least three personal visits to each of the families who benefit from the project. On her first visit she assesses needs and helps develop a renovation plan. Each family is responsible for hiring the workmen. Some families use their grant for materials, while completing part or all of the work themselves. Joseph Kesheshian works as a waiter but is doing the carpentry work necessary to divide his single-room apartment into two rooms and panel the walls; his grant paid for the wood. When completed, Joseph, his wife and their two children will have better privacy and drier walls.

Elias Khoury is turning a rubble-filled room across from his apartment into a second living area with a decent bathroom. He, his wife, Lina, and their three children have a single room for living and sleeping; they look forward to spreading out. Elias does maintenance work for an Israeli company and would not have been able to afford the extensive renovations the second room required on his $575 a month salary.

Rose visits each project again while construction is underway and again at its completion. Funds are likewise distributed in three stages to insure that they are used as intended.

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Tags: CNEWA Jerusalem Economic hardships Homes/housing