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Home Sweet Home:
Rebuilding Neighborhoods,
One House at a Time

Walk into the Delmas community in Port-au-Prince, and the devastation from the earthquake is immediately apparent. 

You’ll find a ghost of a neighborhood, with homes reduced to rubble, partially collapsed buildings and empty lots. In the middle of it all, you may come across a family living in a tent, amid all the destruction and despair.

This is the community where we are building transitional shelters, which are designed to last for several years. All together, we hope to build about 1,950.

Proving land ownership

Residents of Terrain Acra are being given priority for transitional shelters, as well as vulnerable people, such as the elderly, people with disabilities and women who are heads of households. In all cases, families must prove they either own the land or have permission from the owner of the land to rent it and have a shelter there.

Constructing new homes is no small task because several people may have documents showing they own the same piece of land. “In Haiti, it’s extremely challenging to build transitional shelters because it’s difficult to prove who owns what,” Deb said.

“The purpose of the transitional shelter is really to get people out from under the tents and tarps in which they’re living,” explained Deb Ingersoll, our community development coordinator in Haiti. “It provides them with four walls made of plywood and a tin roof over their head, and gives them a safe, sturdy place to live while they try to figure out what’s next.”

Safety first

Families living in Terrain Acra who are interested in receiving a transitional shelter fill out an application. We then send site assessors out into the community to determine which pieces of land can actually be built upon. After the earthquake, the Haitian government along with a couple engineering firms evaluated each house in the city.

Homes tagged green are safe to live in. Houses marked yellow need repairs but with repairs could be lived in. And red homes are structurally unsound and not safe to enter. “In many cases, red houses are endangering other homes, so it’s important even if somebody doesn’t want to live there to get the structure torn down to make it a safe place for everybody,” Deb emphasized.

We are partnering with other organizations who can repair yellow houses or demolish red houses. But rubble removal is another challenge.

An immense amount of rubble still needs to be removed, and we cannot build shelters until the lots are cleared. Families are responsible for clearing their own land. We are also looking into permanent housing options for families. Transitional shelters are not meant to be lived in long-term, but the reality is many families will struggle to find the resources to build permanent homes.

“Most of the people will continue to live in transitional shelters for a very long time to come,” Deb acknowledged.

Number of people who received health care at our clinic each day.
Number of ARC mobile clinics, each provided care to about 50 to 75 patients a week.
Our child-friendly spaces provided educational and recreational activities for up to 1,000 children five days a week.
More than 500 women visited our safe spaces each day to participate in support groups and skill-building activities, and to receive services. The goal was to reduce violence against women and empower them.
Number of camps for earthquake survivors that ARC managed in 2010: Camp Hope, Old Military Airport Camp, Corail Camp and Terrain Acra Camp.
Over the past year, we’ve helped more than 83,000 people receive the daily essentials they need, ensuring families have clean water, shelter, health care and more.
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We managed a cholera treatment unit at Terrain Acra Camp and 20 oral rehydration posts in the surrounding community, where people with symptoms of the disease receive life-saving care.
What’s Next for 2011?
We are constructing about 2,000 shelters for earthquake survivors, allowing them to leave their tents behind for a sturdy, secure place to live.