In Haiti’s capital, displaced people with disabilities finally find new homes

By Véronique Durroux-Malpartida with Claire Gaulin

In June, gang violence rocked Haiti’s capital, Port-au-Prince, displacing 19,000 people from their homes. Among the gangs’ targets were hundreds of disabled people living in Lapiste camp; their homes were burned to the ground in a sudden, violent attack.

Gang violence has continued since then, even as the country endured the assassination of its president in July and an earthquake in August, which shattered people’s lives in the south-west.

When the violence began, many of Lapiste’s disabled residents fled to a local church. The Secretary of State for the Disabled rehoused them in a school in the Delmas 103 neighbourhood of Port-au-Prince. But the school’s conditions were squalid, and they slept on mattresses on the floor and washed in makeshift outdoor showers.

But the 219 disabled residents of Delmas 103 now have a new home thanks to the International Organization for Migration (IOM), with funding from the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF) in collaboration with the General Directorate for Civil Protection and the national Housing Unit.

The residents have been relocated to functional homes and will receive transport costs, rental subsidies, help with medical expenses, counselling support and basic training in how to earn an income. The squalid school has also been cleaned and equipped, and it is now open to students once again — six weeks into the school year.

Here are some of the residents’ stories.

Darlène* had been living on the school’s ground floor, which was filled with dirty mattresses, boxes, bags and school desks crammed into a small room. She said that finding a new home means she can finally sleep on her own mattress and give her 15-year-old paraplegic son, Arnold,* a better place to live.

Darlène is also excited to reunite with her two other children, who she had to leave behind with a neighbour.

Reginald* holds his two-year-old son, Brice,* on his lap.

The youngest of three siblings, Brice was born with a psychomotor disability that left him with little balance and unable to speak. He received physical therapy at St. Vincent, a facility in the capital for children with disabilities, but his family could not afford to continue treatment. However, Brice’s mother has plans for him.

“Even though he lives with a handicap, when he grows up I want him to not feel inferior to other children his age,” she said. She wants Brice to attend a specialist school, and she would pay the fees by starting a business with her husband.

In 2018, Catheline* was at work downtown when shooting began; she was hit by a stray bullet that left her wheelchair bound. Soon after, her husband left her and their two young children — now ages 5 and 7 — and Catheline now depends on her sister for all her care.

In June, she and her sister fled Lapiste when gangs attacked, leaving her children with her mother. She does not earn enough to send them to school. Catheline is now looking forward to moving into a house that has been adapted for her disabilities, thanks to CERF and IOM. She will also receive equipment and several months’ worth of medical insurance.

Jameson, who lives at the site, lost a leg during the 2010 earthquake. In June, he lost his home when gangs burned it down. Though he can hear, he taught himself sign language and now helps to interpret and advocate for Lapiste’s hearing-impaired residents.

He explained: “I love languages. I also play music — the trumpet — but I always wanted to learn sign language. These people here need help.”

Jameson is looking forward to moving to a new home with the help of IOM’s Relocation Officer, Fred.

At the time of publication, all residents at the Delmas 103 site had been relocated.

*Names changed for protection reasons.

Many thanks to the IOM team in Haiti for facilitating access to the school.

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