Inside Story Americas
Is there hope for Haiti's homeless?
We ask why many of hundreds of thousands of Haitians left homeless after the 2010 earthquake are being forcibly evicted.
Last Modified: 13 Jul 2012 14:10

Even before the earthquake struck Haiti, in a country of just ten million, hundreds of thousands were in need of housing. But after the quake the housing problem turned into a crisis, with nearly half of the homes in the capital suffering significant damage.

"The biggest failure has come because of the lack of consultation with Haitians ... people whose live were turned upside down ... during the earthquake ...  they were never part of the decision making .... We have heard time and time again ... there's no land available or there's no social housing plan in place for Haitians. But ... if there is no land available why haven't we [tried] ... some other method for people to get out of the situation that they are in."

- Melinda Miles, director of Let Haiti Live

The International Organization of Migration (IOM) says that the number of homeless is down from a peak of around 1.5 million to 400,000, which is a significant drop.

So why are Haitians still angry? President Michel Martelly, along with the IOM, launched a housing program giving camp residents $500 in rental subsidies for a year.

But only five per cent of the camp population would benefit from the plan. The organisation admits it is not sure what has happened to the rest.

According to a report released by Amnesty International in January, displaced Haitians report receiving cash bribes and threats forcing them to leave their camps.

A report by the Port-au-Prince-based Center for Research, Reflection, Training, and Social Action (CERFAS) is highly critical of efforts to provide housing for Haitians displaced by the earthquake.

On the eve of the earthquake it was estimated that 300,000 new lodgings were required in Port Au-Prince. And a post-quake survey showed 20 per cent of the estimated 414,000 buildings in the capital were damaged beyond repair, with 25 per cent needing structural repair.

"It's a really striking example of the problem with international aid .... And the reality is that ... the Haitian government still has to abide by the rules set for them by foreign investors and come up with projects that are suitable to them."

- Kevin Edmonds, an activist

The report shows reconstruction efforts have focussed on building temporary shelters which have absorbed 79 per cent of the $461m spent.

A total of 109,000 temporary shelters have been constructed while only 5,000 permanent homes built. But CERFAS say there is nothing temporary about the shelters being constructed and they are built to poor standards.

So is there hope for Haiti's homeless?

To discuss this, Inside Story Americas, with presenter Anand Naidoo, is joined by guests: Melinda Miles, director of Let Haiti Live, a project of TransAfrica Forum; Jean Yves Point Du Jour, a Haitian radio host; and Kevin Edmonds, an activist at Canada Haiti Action Network.

"First of all, a lot of amazing things have been done since the earthquake and that the potential for growth is quite significant and tourism and in the arts and crafts and not just to bring people in from outside the country but also to provide a better environment for Haitians themselves."

Bill Clinton, former US president



  • A magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck Haiti on January 12, 2010, killing an estimated 230,000 people
  • Post-quake cholera epidemic killed at least 7,000 people
  • Most Haitians still do not have access to portable water
  • Nearly 400,000 Haitians still live in massive tent camps
  • There has been anger in Haiti over corruption and slow pace of recovery
  • "Under tents" campaign aims to address 'epidemic of homelessness'
  • IOM says number of Haitians living in camps has decreased dramatically
  • Activists say camp-numbers are decreasing due to evictions
  • Studies show 1 penny out of every aid dollar went to Haiti's government
  • Most of the aid money ended up in coffers of original donor nations


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