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Case Studies | March 1, 2016

Using Cash for Shelter

An Overview of CRS Programs

Cash continues to gain prevalence as a modality for humanitarian agencies to help people meet multiple and diverse needs in the wake of a crisis. It provides people with the dignity of choice, and is often significantly more cost-efficient than the delivery of in-kind aid. In programs with a shelter focus, cash may be given to project participants to access rental homes; to buy shelter materials; or to pay for labor, technical advice, or other services. 

Is cash appropriate for every shelter program? When does it provide benefits to project participants, communities and local economies, and when doesn’t it? What do we, as humanitarian aid practitioners, need to do to make cash more effective in achieving shelter outcomes?

To start to gain a better understanding of when cash works, why it works, and what factors contribute to its success or failure, Catholic Relief Services (CRS) conducted a review of eight recent CRS programs wherein cash was considered as a response modality to achieve shelter outcomes. CRS used cash in six of the countries, and project participants were able to meet Sphere and other building standards. In one country, CRS decided against using cash. In another country, CRS used mixed modalities.

These case studies are intended to serve as a platform for more discussion and review on promising and best practices in how and when to utilize cash to achieve shelter outcomes.