For more than two years, Mona Delva lived under tarps in Mais Gaté camp in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. After a massive earthquake struck the country on January 12, 2010, she and her family lost not one, but two homes.
“We used to be comfortable; we all had our own rooms, and we did well. Then, we lost everything,” she said.
In December 2011, Delva, 42, and her two children, ages 22 and 17, moved into a new apartment with help from the Red Cross, and she also received a cash grant to help her re-establish her small trade business.
“I celebrated like it was a party when I found out the Red Cross was going to help me,” Delva said.
Delva is one of more than 20,000 people benefiting from American Red Cross support for a rental subsidy and livelihoods project from the global Red Cross network. The project assists families living in camps to find apartments, for which the Red Cross provides rent for one year. Concurrently, they receive assistance finding jobs or cash grants to start small businesses so they can build up a way to eventually pay the rent on their own.
“It’s not always so hard to find an apartment in Port-au-Prince. The problem is often paying for it, because many landlords demand at least six months’ rent in advance,” said Odile David, an American Red Cross staff member.
With help from the Red Cross, Delva and other Haitians get a little more time to rebuild their lives, resources and independence.
“I used to work, and when I heard the Red Cross would help me return to work, I knew things would start to go better for me,” said Lucienne Boumba, another beneficiary of the project. “I like the ability to care for myself.”
Boumba, 60, was able to move into a room she rents in a building where her daughter and son-in-law live as well. With the jobs assistance, she was able to set up a small trade business outside of the building, where she sells home goods.
More than 1,900 households in Mais Gaté camp benefitted from the project in 2012, and the American Red Cross is supporting more than 2,000 families who are relocating from Tapis Rouge camp.
Families are responsible for finding their own apartments and negotiating with the landlords. However, to ensure that the homes are safe, there are several criteria that must be met before the Red Cross transfers funds.
In order to qualify, a rental home or apartment must not be in or near a ravine; have a green status from the Ministry of Public Works to show it is safe for living; have a working toilet; and cannot be in a high-rise building or in an otherwise restricted zone or area.
Once the Red Cross inspects and photographs the home, and an agreement is made between the family and the landlord, the funds are transferred. Families are given grants to pay for one year of rent. If the home or unit costs more than the given amount, the family is responsible to make up the balance; if it costs less, the family may keep the remainder.
Since the 2010 earthquake, the American Red Cross has spent or committed more than $136 million on housing and neighborhood recovery, benefiting more than 70,000 people. More than $32 million has been spent on livelihoods support via job training, grants and cash-for-work opportunities, benefiting more than 350,000 people.
For more information on what the American Red Cross is doing in Haiti or to read the three-year progress report, please visit www.redcross.org/haiti.