Home is where the heart is

| January 5, 2015 | 0 Comments
Volunteers and workers built hundreds of homes for Haitians under the auspices of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project at the Santo development in Leogane, Haiti.

Volunteers and workers built hundreds of homes for Haitians under the auspices of the Jimmy & Rosalynn Carter Work Project at the Santo development in Leogane, Haiti.

In the aftermath of a disaster, access to shelter — along with the other basic human needs of food, water and health care — is essential to survival. Access to shelter is central because of the role a safe and decent home plays in rebuilding communities long after the disaster or crisis, as families begin to rebuild what they have lost.
Habitat for Humanity builds homes around the world based on the simple but profound idea that a place to live is the foundation on which all other dreams are achieved. Families that have a safe and decent place to live take control of their lives and work on their long-term happiness and success. This makes housing one of the most critical short- and long-term priorities after a crisis, and one of the greatest gifts that donors can provide for families in their time of need.
Habitat for Humanity Canada is linked into the global mission of Habitat in many ways: It builds affordable homes for low-income Canadian families, it assists Habitat branches in other countries by supplying funds and volunteers and by overseeing international development projects.
Habitat’s role in disaster recovery is not simply about rebuilding physical structures. Rather, it’s about using our area of expertise — housing — to restore social, economic, natural and cultural environments for communities and empowering families to be partners in their own recoveries over time.
Habitat views the rebuilding process as a continuum that we call the “pathway to permanence.” This is the general, step-by-step process that families move along from disaster homelessness to a permanent home, a time-frame that can last from a few weeks to many years.
Habitat also knows that each crisis situation is unique. We therefore play a range of roles at different stages in disaster recovery, roles that include providing emergency shelter kits, building homes or providing various housing support services.
Over time, Habitat’s programs have adjusted to the needs of the communities in which we are working as these communities move from crisis, to relief, through the stages of recovery. What is consistent in Habitat’s work is our long-term approach to supporting communities.
A relatively recent example of Habitat’s international work took place following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti. Habitat for Humanity Haiti set a goal to serve 50,000 families over a five-year period. In partnership with Habitat affiliates and donors around the world, this goal was achieved in just three years.
Today, Habitat continues its work in Haiti. We have 26 infrastructure programs in the Simon-Pele region of Port-au-Prince, where we are building and repairing roads, adding street lighting, and retrofitting an additional 400 homes. In the process, and thanks to the support of Canadian donors and the Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development, we are providing residents with construction skills training to help them lead their own recovery efforts.
Habitat also has an active presence in the Philippines, helping those who were displaced by Typhoon Haiyan in November 2013. After the typhoon, we immediately deployed into affected areas to provide 5,000 emergency shelter kits to families who lost their homes, with plans to distribute 30,000 shelter repair kits and 50,000 cleanup kits to affected families. Over the long term, and with the support of Canadian donors, Habitat will continue to help affected communities with housing solutions, from transitional shelter interventions to permanent home reconstruction.

Erin O’Neill is director of international programs for Toronto-based Habitat for Humanity Canada.

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Erin O’Neill is director of international programs for Toronto-based Habitat for Humanity Canada.

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