Monday, September 20, 2010

Trailers to Tents to T-Shelters

Saturday, I went out with a colleague from Sun Mountain and a construction expert from CHF.  The ride out to Corail-Cesselesse was a cross between demolition derby and Formula One race.  Once at the huge displaced persons camp, I was impressed with the enormity of the community, stretching almost from one horizon to another and to the foot of the deforested hills serving as backdrop.

As I got out of the four-wheel drive vehicles, a virtual necessity on the rough roads in and around Port-au-Prince, my Sun Mountain colleague, a Haitian named Sam, greeted me with the words, "Welcome to Hell."

As we observed the five-year anniversary of Katrina three weeks ago and the nine-month anniversary of the earthquake in Haiti just a little more one ago, I sought to connect the housing issues surrounding Katrina (eviction from destruction of public housing, formaldehyde-laced trailers, uneven neighborhood reconstruction, and Brad Pitt-supported building, often with a green slant) with those I was discovering in Haiti (people living in tents in front of red-marked, unsafe housing, people separated from their neighborhoods in camps in public plazas, the most remote of all, residents of places like Corail, sleeping in half-pipe-Quonset-hut tents to transitional or T-shelters, square houses designed to go up quickly without costing an arm and a leg.)

Time did a story on the displaced persons camps for sixth-month Haiti earthquake anniversary and the New York Times did one on the same topic two days ago with a focus on poignant letters from camp residents to the International Organization for Migration, one of whose vehicles I had ridden in for much of my first week in Haiti.  New Orleans, say hello to your sister city, Port-au-Prince.  Welcome to hell, a place where not enough gets done, at a snail's pace.  Here's one of the Corail photos from the Time magazine article.

1 comment:

  1. Russell,
    Thank you for sharing so lucidly your experiences and insights. So this is what Hell looks like...