Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti

Haitian Homelessness replicates American version

By John Joel Roberts, LA Homeless Examiner
August 3, 2010

Even after millions of dollars invested into Haiti six months ago, more than 1.5 million Haitians are still homeless. This small island contains double the amount of homelessness than America.

The devastating earthquake in this hemisphere’s poorest country caused a tidal wave of homelessness. People scrambled out of the capital city, into rural areas. The international response was hopeful. In fact, some experts thought this could be the beginning of lifting this country out of poverty. Billions of dollars were invested.

Thousands of make-shift tents were set up within days. Relief agencies arrived on its shores to help, building complete cities of tents. Food, water, and emergency shelter were the priority. I’m sure it saved lives.

But half a year later, those living in tents see no hope. The rainy season and the threat of hurricanes have exasperated their life situation. Who wants to be perched on a hill under a vinyl tent when 100 miles per hour winds are pounding your so-called home?

One storm blew down 300 tents.

Haitians are waiting for permanent homes. But who will provide the resources to build a million homes? Compassionate nations already contributed millions of dollars to the relief effort, even during this world-wide economic downturn. But emergency relief is all that Haitians received.

Now that the emergency is over, so is the relief.

Sounds like homelessness in America. Thirty years ago, compassionate Americans created feeding programs, food banks, and emergency shelters for their hurting neighbors who live on the streets. Many homeless agencies in Los Angeles were started in the 1980s. It was a caring response to a crisis.

But fast forward a few decades, and that same emergency relief effort in America is still going on. And homelessness is increasing.

When a community suddenly figures out there are a few hundred people living on their beach, in the urban neighborhood, or along their river, the first response is to build a shelter or set up a tent city. It’s a natural response to a crisis.

But someone needs to say the crisis is over, and the hard work of permanently housing people has begun.

For homeless people in America, and for those in Haiti.

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