Friday, July 13, 2012

Homelessness, Displacement, Evictions . . . This Sounds Familiar, By Hannah Adams

There are a number of obvious parallels between housing needs in New Orleans after the 2005 hurricanes and housing needs in Haiti after the 2010 earthquake.

In both disasters, large regions lost the majority of their affordable housing stock, resulting in massive spikes in homelessness and displacement.  UNITY of Greater New Orleans reports that homelessness rates effectively doubled in the city from January 2005 to January 2009. The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center adds that New Orleans experienced a population loss of over 140,000 according to the 2010 census, and that poor New Orleanians and families with children under eighteen were among those less likely to return. Meanwhile, the Under Tents Campaign reports that 400,000 Haitians remain homeless in displacement camps where they face gender-based violence, disease, unsanitary living conditions, and flooding.

Now, like New Orleans families were forcibly evicted from public housing, apartments, and eventually FEMA trailers in the months and years following their disaster, displaced Haitians face eviction from the camps where they have been living since 2010.  The threat of eviction exists despite the lack of affordable housing options elsewhere, and despite the fact that President Michel Martelly’s relocation plan helped only 5% of the internally displaced population access rental housing via a limited rental stipend.

Strong organizing for housing justice is another thing post-Katrina New Orleans and post-earthquake Haiti have in common.  In response to the threat of eviction and the dire need for affordable housing options, Haitian grassroots housing activists formed the umbrella coalition called Force for Reflection and Action on Housing (FRAKKA).  FRAKKA demands that “the Haitian Government immediately halt all forced evictions until public or affordable housing is made available. The Haitian Government must, with the support of its allies and donor governments in the U.S., Canada, and Europe move quickly to: 1) designate land for housing; 2) create one centralized government housing institution to coordinate and implement a social housing plan; and 3) solicit and allocate funding to realize this plan.”

The Under Tents campaign recently launched a petition to support the call for affordable housing in Haiti by putting pressure on the Haitian government, as well as international powers like the United States that often control the flow of resources to Haiti.  Sign the petition here and learn more about the campaign at

This article originally appeared on the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center blog. Hannah Adams is a law student and former Education Coordinator at the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center.

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