The majority of the refugees in Lebanon are staying with host families. The refugees often pay rent to the families that allow them to stay, or they offer labor in exchange for lodging. In some cases there are as many as six refugee families staying with one host family.
Each refugee family, typically eight people, is crowded into one room that serves as their kitchen, living area, bathroom and sleeping quarters. In the homes where we are working the electricity is out, the roofs are leaking, the wind whips through the flimsy windows and doors, and it is freezing cold.
Families huddle together around a small stove, struggling to stay warm at night as the temperature plummets to below -10C in this region.
Hala, a 19-year old refugee who fled her home in Syria by foot, now lives with her family in the attic of a host home. Hala told me: "We are not able to get warm either by day or by night. The walls are always damp and it is freezing."
In one room I visited, there were two families who had just arrived. They were given a storage room to sleep in -- there were no windows, no electricity and just a plastic sheet on the cold, damp cement floor.
The mothers were unpacking blankets from grain sacks they had used as suitcases when they fled. The fathers were assembling an oil stove improvised out of a metal barrel. Kids were trying to help their parents. Everyone was silently working in the dark.
I could see they had just endured a horrible experience and hadn't even collected their thoughts. They had made it out of Syria, through the battle. They had found shelter for the night -- and that's as far as they were in their mind.
When I asked them what was next, they truly did not know. They only hoped they would be provided some humanitarian assistance while they sat out the fighting.
Despite these dire conditions, refugee families offered me tea or to share their dinner. Out of politeness, they told me it was OK to not remove my shoes as I walked in to their rooms.
This is almost unheard of in this culture but a politeness offered to the guest foreigner. My shoes were muddy and wet from the day and there was no way I could accept their kind offer.