Partners in Providing Shelter
By Linda Unger*
April 6, 2011—More than 3,200 families in Haiti will soon have transitional, upgradeable, or permanent housing, thanks to collaborative efforts between the United Methodist Committee on Relief (UMCOR) and three different humanitarian organizations.
In March, UMCOR approved projects with BRAC, Habitat for Humanity, and International Relief and Development (IRD) to provide the housing, which will benefit more than 16,000 individuals in three separate locations. UMCOR’s total commitment across the three projects is nearly $1.9 million.
“UMCOR understands the strength of value-added partnerships such as these,” said executive Thomas Dwyer, who oversees UMCOR’s field offices in eight countries, including Haiti. “Working together this way allows us to more effectively meet the need for long-term solutions in the process of Haiti’s recovery.”
Following last year’s devastating earthquake, more than 1.5 million Haitians were left homeless. Thousands of buildings—homes, schools, hospitals, and government structures—were destroyed.
Issues related to land tenure and to housing for those who did not own but, rather, rented a home have been significant challenges to progress.
The partnerships UMCOR forged this spring, however, are providing a way forward in meeting shelter needs.
Through a million-dollar match grant, UMCOR Haiti is partnering with Habitat for Humanity to provide 3,000 transitional or upgradeable shelters in the towns of Leogane, Cabaret, and the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince.
“The significance of the agreement with Habitat for Humanity is that this may well be just the first of various collaborations between Habitat and UMCOR to continue to meet the great need for shelter in post-earthquake Haiti,” said Dwyer. “Given Habitat’s team on the ground and UMCOR’s resources, there is a lot we could accomplish together.”
As of March 31, UMCOR and Habitat for Humanity had already completed work on 829 transitional shelters and 394 upgradeable ones, which are now serving 1,221 families.
Transitional shelters are distinct from upgradeable shelters in that they have only a basic foundation and construction and are meant to last about three to five years. Upgradeable shelters have a more permanent foundation and construction. They are more substantial and allow homeowners to add to them as their circumstances and needs change.
BRAC, an international relief agency headquartered in Dhaka, Bangladesh, is another UMCOR partner. Currently, BRAC and UMCOR are working together to increase food security, income, and farming capacity for 400 Haitian families in five locations. To those projects they have added an agreement to complete work on 55 permanent shelters.
And before the end of April, UMCOR’s collaboration with International Relief and Development, headquartered in Arlington, Virginia, will yield another 150 transitional shelters, in the town of Leogane.
There is still a great deal of work to be done to help Haitian families resettle in homes of their own. UMCOR’s Dwyer is confident that partnerships such as these can go a long way toward providing those shelters.
*Linda Unger is UMCOR staff editor and senior writer.