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Transitional housing best option for Haiti rebuild

By June 21, 2010

Haiti (MNN) — Just after the five month anniversary of the earthquake that killed 300,000, Haiti is still struggling to come back to life.

The picture of reconstruction in Haiti is not what many might envision. Hundreds of thousands of people are homeless, surviving on limited resources under worn tents, yet Evangelical Free Church missionary Wesley Armstrong says their main focus is not to build permanent housing yet.

"Given the number of people right now who literally have only a tarp and a stick that holds it up for shelter, it just doesn't seem like it's a time to invest in permanent housing for a select few when there are still so many people in a lot more urgent need than that," says Armstrong. He is taking on the heavy task of building transitional homes while working on several other projects.

Transitional housing is a quicker solution than building permanent homes, but that's not the only reason the EFCA has chosen to focus their attention there. Housing that may look temporary to the non-Haitian eye may very well fit the current needs of the Haitians. Armstrong says the trauma experienced by many during the quake will likely keep them from ever living under what Westerners may consider to be normal housing conditions again.

"There is still a lot of fear and a lot of uncertainty," says Armstrong. "People aren't wanting to go back into homes that have concrete roofs on them anymore. So simpler structures, lighter structures, single story structures seem to be, at least with this generation, all they're really interested in living in again."

Throughout the last five months, many have criticized that it is taking too long to reconstruct. Contrary to what many onlookers have said, however, Armstrong says progress is being made.

"There is a difference now from the beginning. There's still devastation everywhere, but you can see some pretty marked changes." Armstrong says rubble has been removed to make streets drivable again, and some schools and homes have gone up.

Even better news, the church appears healthier than ever, raising up leaders who are genuinely excited to set an example and reach out to a still-weary Haiti.

Still, thousands of those weary Haitians remain sitting under tarps while heavy rains come and hurricane season heats up. Armstrong says it's "really difficult and frustrating" to know that when the rain pours hard in Haiti, thousands still have insufficient shelter to deal with it. Armstrong and his team are working as hard as they can to provide adequate shelter quickly.

Pray that the resources would be available to build transitional homes quickly so that Haitians can get out of the rain and back into some semblance of normalcy. Armstrong says they're working alongside Haitians to rebuild, which will help eliminate the risk of dependency in the future.

Short-term teams who are prepared to work in these conditions would be very helpful in the rebuilding process. If you or a group from your church would be willing to help in this way, click here and contact the EFCA's TouchGlobal Crisis Response.

In the meantime, don't forget to pray for the church in Haiti.

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