Week one of 'Under Tents' housing rights campaign

July 7, 2012
Hello reader,

It's been a busy first week for the `Under Tents' housing campaign. Thus far, seventeen organizations have signed on as sponsors to promote the campaign including the Zero Evictions Campaign of the International Alliance of Inhabitants.

If you haven't seen them, here are the action alerts, blogs and articles on the housing crisis that mention the campaign this week:
· MCC Washington Office: End Housing Injustice in Haiti (text below)
· CEPR: Official Displaced Population Decreases, but Where Are They Going?
· Change by Doing: Under Tents–An International Campaign for Haitian Housing
· Fair Action Housing Center: Homelessness, Displacement, Evictions . . . This Sounds Familiar (text below)
· Rabble.ca and Haiti Liberté: Haiti's earthquake victims step up demands for housing (Roger Annis & Kim Ives)
· NACLA: Under Tents: Taking Action for Haiti's Homeless (Kevin Edmonds)

Here is a list of some of the sites that ran the press release or a similar announcement sent by Other Worlds about the campaign launch: Other Worlds, Daily Kos, Michael Moore, Relief Web, Aid News, IJDH, Humanitarian News, Haiti ReWired, World Pulse, Peace & Collaborative Development Network, Rumors and News.

A Canadian version of the press release went out yesterday, and Mark Schuller has an article pending (see below). Additionally, I was interviewed about the campaign by Kim Ives on NYC's WBAI radio Thursday night, we've had requests for two more radio interviews (one from Australia, one from Jamaica), and several Haiti-based journalists are working on housing stories.

Fantastic work, everyone! Now we just have to keep up the momentum.

With peace, for houses,
Alexis Erkert
Other Worlds Are Possible; and Coordinator of `Under Tents'

End housing injustice in Haiti
By Mennonite Central Committee U.S.

Take action and sign a letter to support civil society organizations in Haiti as they petition the Haitian government to address the housing crisis exacerbated by the earthquake on January 12, 2010 and the forced evictions that have ensued.

Background: Even before the earthquake, Haiti was experiencing a major housing crisis. A UN Habitat report estimates there was a shortage of 300,000 homes in 2009. After the earthquake, more than 1.5 million people were displaced and left homeless, forced to live in temporary shelters. As of June 2012, the International Office of Migration (IOM) estimates that there are 390,276 displaced persons still living in tent camps. The majority of those remaining in the camps were renting homes before the earthquake. Their homes were destroyed beyond repair and they now have nowhere else to return.

The government of Haiti is bound by a constitutional directive to support the needs of people living without adequate shelter. It is obligated under the Haitian Constitution of 1987, Article 22, to recognize the right to decent housing for those who cannot find a home for themselves. Despite the existing housing crisis, the government of Haiti has not yet established a centralized housing institution to address the shortage of shelter for these hundreds of thousands of Haitians.

Civil society organizations, mostly comprised of people living in tent camps, have joined together to advocate for themselves, asking the government to respond to their needs by halting the evictions of residents living in tent camps and creating affordable housing options.

Faith Reflection: Scripture reminds us that we are the salt and light of the earth (Mark 4:21-25). Just as lamps are to be placed out in the open, we are challenged to overcome our fear and place ourselves in a position to influence justice. Through persistence (Luke 18:1-8) the widow received justice from the judge. In the same way, Moses and Aaron also came before Pharaoh, and pleaded the case of the Israelites (Exodus 6:28-7:7). So too, for the homeless in Haiti, are we called to bear light and seek justice.

Action: Sign a petition, which calls on the government of Haiti to respect the needs of people who remain displaced.

Alert prepared by Wawa and Kristen Chege, MCC's Policy Analysts and Advocacy Coordinators in Haiti.

Homelessness, Displacement, Evictions . . . This Sounds Familiar

By Hannah Adams, Guest Contributor

Posted on the website of the Greater New Orleans Fair Housing Action Center, July 5, 2012

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. [1] 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. [2]

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 launched a petition on Monday 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 www.undertentshaiti.com.

[1] Homelessness in Greater New Orleans: A Report on Progress Toward Ending Homelessness in the Years After the Nation's Largest Housing Disaster, UNITY of Greater New Orleans. Available at http://unitygno.org/news/publications/.

[2] What Census 2010 Reveals about Population and Housing in New Orleans and the Metro Area and Poverty in Southeast Louisiana post-Katrina, by Greater New Orleans Community Data Center. Available at http://www.gnocdc.org/Census2010/index.html and http://www.gnocdc.org/Poverty/index.html.
Background reading on housing in Haiti:

1. Other Worlds Are Possible:
* Withholding water: Cholera, prejudice and the right to water in Haiti, part one; by Deepa Panchang, May 31, 2012 (part two on June 29, 2012)

* Urgent action: Haitian families again facing forced evictions; by Amnesty International, June 19, 2012
* Home: From Displacement Camps to Community in Haiti; by Alexis Erkert and Beverley Bell, January 4, 2012

2. Haiti Grassroots Watch: See numerous articles on the website, including these two:

* Transition to what? August 23, 2011
** new! ** The Morne à Cabri mystery houses; July 10, 2012

3. Institute for Justice and Democracy in Haiti: housing rights campaign

4. Canada Haiti Action Network: Do a search of the website under 'housing' to find these and other articles:
* Haiti's earthquake victims step up demands for housing;, by Kim Ives and Roger Annis, July 4, 2012
* Evictions mar Canada's resettlement project in Haiti; by Stuart Neatby, April 11, 2012
* Piercing new report on shelter and housing by International Crisis Group; June 28, 2011

5. Mark Schuller (co-editor of 'Tectonic Shifts: Haiti since the earthquake')