Any of us who have moved to a new home lived through an adaptation phase. And every change has an element of disorder, although the change is planned, desired and announced. However, in most cases, the discomfort lasts longer than expected, and the adaptation ends up not being concluded because simply some details or, the most critical factors for our quality of life and comfort become evident just when we are living the absence of them. The lack of these factors generates the greatest difficulties for families to adapt in the long term.
The change of home as a result of a physical resettlement program has this great challenge. In addition to all the elements that make these complex processes for the new home – such as compensation for loss of life, displacement of social and economic activities, reconstruction of public services and equipment, and redesign of solidarity networks and social dynamics, a new challenge begins after the move: the adaptation to the new space and new social coexistence.
Adaptation has a strong sociocultural component because it is directly linked to the way communities and different members of a social group construct and share their values, customs, norms and laws through which they organize life in a given social space.
Some examples of how this sociocultural component affects the adaptation of the resettled population have been identified in different resettlement projects in Latin America, such as:
- Rural communities resettled in collective housing complexes generally have difficulty using common and public spaces because they prefer the usual privacy of life in the countryside. “We need silence. We do not like to see the neighbor’s house,” they said;
- Artisanal fishermen, after the change to safer areas, return to the same point of the river where they used to fish because there is a feeling of connection with that stretch of the river that was discovered by their ancestors. “Our place of work is the river and this stretch was discovered by our grandparents,” they explained;
- Riparian groups accustomed to living in the river basins, after being displaced to resettlements with better equipment and services, left their homes and built improvised barracks to return to live near the river and the water. “The river is our reason to live”, they explained;
- Traditional communities of chestnut collectors that were offered better housing conditions refused to change their new homes and preferred to return to live in the forest because the relationship with the chestnut trees was more important than a more comfortable house. “The trees are calling me back,” they said to explain the refusal to resettle;
- The high number of reforms carried out in the homes offered to the resettled population that demonstrates the need for adjustments, such as external bathrooms or the construction of a second floor. “The bathroom for us is a private place and cannot stay on the side of the kitchen and the living room,” they explained.
A first strategy to facilitate the process of adapting to the new home and improve the degree of success of a population resettlement is to include questions of a socio-spatial nature in the records made for the survey of the population affected by the resettlement. These are questions that reveal how the population is organized in space and can be important elements for adaptation. Some of these questions are:
- If you were to build a new house, what would it be like?
- What do you consider the most important thing in your home, without which you would not live well?
- What is the maximum distance between your home and place of work?
- What is the minimum distance between your house and your neighbor’s?
- What is there in the community, neighborhood, or region where you live that you consider important to live well?
- What causes you more comfort when you are at home?
- What causes you more discomfort when you are away from home?
The second strategy is to link support to change and accompaniment of resettled families – usually included in the resettlement program – to an adaptation plan. This plan includes activities aimed at the affected population to solve issues of social coexistence and the relationship with the new space and home.
A pilot project of personalized attention is being inaugurated in the Urbanization of Popular Settlements Program in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – PROAP III, an IDB project that will carry out interventions in approximately 30 favelas and 6 groupings. This project will benefit about 28 thousand homes and 100 thousand inhabitants. The pilot project of adaptation incentive was designed to serve 120 families resettled from a favela, totaling 240 inhabitants. Residents are invited to participate in conflict mediation activities, behavioral change techniques, and activities to develop communication and social coexistence. The objectives of the activities include:
- Stimulate and strengthen the permanence of families in the new home;
- Expand the sustainability of social coexistence;
- Clarify questions about irregular sales of housing units;
- Encourage the participation, organization, leadership, mobilization and democratic and sustainable management of the condominium.
It is hoped that, with this incentive to adaptation, a resettled family can declare, after a few years: this is my home, this is my place!