Homer, the Greek poet, famously said, “The charity that is a trifle to us can be precious to others”. Statistics, as of 2005, estimated that at least 100 million people worldwide were homeless and in the 12 years since, the number has only risen, with over 300,000 homeless in The UK and 1.6 billion worldwide.
The global construction market is currently valued at £6.5 trillion, with an expected growth to £8 trillion in 2020. In the UK alone, over £136 million was spent on construction in 2016, 2.4% up on 2015.
Considering what we just told you about homelessness and the construction industry, it is indeed a contradictory picture that emerges. If construction is one of the largest industries, then how is it that so many people haven’t got a roof over their heads? Poverty, increasing population, and inadequate facilities have led to homelessness even in first world nations such as the United States of America, with New York, Los Angeles and Phoenix all featuring in the list of top 15 cities based on homelessness; a highly ironic fact given that the US’ construction industry contributes $78.4 billion dollars per annum to the country’s GDP. Even more astounding is that fact that about 25% of all homeless people in the world are children. That means every fourth homeless person is a child!
So where do we draw a connection between these two completely opposite yet related aspects of humanity? And where do the deeds of giving and charity come into play, in all of this? Well, charity isn’t only restricted to food and clothing.
Charity and the Construction Industry
The role of charity in the construction industry isn’t a recent development. In fact, substantial evidence of charity in the construction industry can be traced back to the “First Houses” project, a public housing project by the New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) in 1935. Labor was donated to the project by the Emergency Relief Fund and financed by philanthropist Bernard Baruch. The NYCHA also sold salvaged material from its other clearance projects to raise funding for “First Houses”
Today, many organizations exist worldwide that donate labor and material to various housing and school projects around the world. Construction giants such as Windover Construction and Skanska in the USA conduct independent campaigns and drives to build homes, apartment complexes and educational outreach programs for homeless veterans, the elderly and children. Whilst in the UK, the construction industry’s charity CRASH works with volunteers and patron companies to deliver much needed support to homeless and hospice charities across the country.
How Companies Can Get Involved
Construction companies undertake projects of massive proportions. It’s, therefore, an easily deducible fact that more often than not, there will be excesses of construction material, which is paid for by the consumer but not often utilized. Be it paint, tiles, or any of the other commonly used materials, these can be donated to non-profit organizations. A tiling company could easily donate tiles for the roofing and flooring of children’s homes and orphanages. A company that produces sanitary equipment could donate leftover materials from projects to schools or housing complexes.
Another way that companies can make a difference is by tying up with organizations such as CRASH or Habitat for Humanity International, a not-for-profit organization that helps end homelessness around the world through its many branches. The organization accepts professional services as well as materials such as lumber, paint, equipment, trucks, tools, appliances, and fixed furnishing towards its campaigns, either as a donation or at a discounted amount in return for tax deductions.
For example, donors have the option of donating “gifts-in-kind”, a tax-deductible gift of services, labor, or materials of value to the organization. These could include shingles, plumbing services or tools, or even a donation of land.
Also, it’s not merely housing projects that can be undertaken by construction companies. Creativity can lead, with children’s playgrounds, donated land with simple recreational facilities or even skating rinks, all requiring the most basic construction materials. Building schools and libraries for communities that lack these facilities can go a long way in the realm of literacy for the poor.
The simplicity of charity in relation to construction industries lies in their architectural efficiency. For example, building apartments can minimize the materials and space required to relocate a community. When it comes to orphanages, hospices and other organizations, an association with a company committed to bettering the society and fulfilling its corporate social responsibility is desirable. Therefore, construction companies could fulfill their Corporate Social Responsibilities (CSR) by donating to organizations such as Mellon Educate to help further several housing projects.
With frequent news of hurricanes, earthquakes and the like, another important aspect of charity in construction is the building of safer houses in high-impact regions. Further, the materials that once supported a structure can be reused to the best of its ability, especially under the experienced eye of an architectural company. Sustainable housing and development fall within the same realm, as simpler housing complexes imply cheaper livelihoods. This would mean that people living below the poverty line or who are homeless would be able to gain a roof over their heads, at almost zero cost.
To quickly recap, these are the ways in which construction companies could lend a charitable hand:
- Donating excess or leftover material from previous projects, such as wood, tiles, sanitary equipment, concrete, cement, and so on.
- Donating land to build houses and schools and even recreational spaces for children.
- Fulfilling their CSR by donating monetarily or in-kind.
- Provide assistance during disasters.
- Provide expert services and labor in the form of employees and volunteers.
Make a Difference
As Thomas Fuller said, “Charity begins at home, but shouldn’t end there”. The possibilities of giving are endless if only the opportunities are recognized. Given the state of homelessness on a global level, every small step counts towards bettering lives, whether it’s a donation of your time or resources. Charity isn’t exclusive to any field; every field has something to give or can find something to give! Construction companies make a difference with the many projects they undertake, be it historical buildings, modern work spaces or grand establishments. However, at a very basic level, all of humanity needs a roof over its head. Be a part of a bigger difference.