Voices of Haiti’s Homeless

The United Nations reported there are 1.2 million people living in “spontaneous settlements” or homeless camps around Port au Prince.  Three people living in the camps spoke with this author this week, before the hard rains hit.

Jean Dora, 71

My name is Jean Dora.  I was born in 1939.  I live in a plaza in front of St. Pierre’s church in Petionville [outside of Port au Prince].  I am here with twelve members of my family.  We all lost our home.

We have a sheet of green plastic to shade us from the sun.  We put up some bed sheets around our space.

I have many small grandchildren living here with me.  My son and daughters live with here too.

My daughter will soon have a child.  She will go to the Red Cross tent when it is time for the baby to come.

I worked for the Chinese Embassy for 36 years.  I cleaned their offices.  I retired in 2007.   Until the earthquake I lived in an apartment with my family.  The building was destroyed.

At night we put a piece of carpet down on the ground.  Then we lay covers down and try to sleep.  When it rains, the water comes in.

We bring bottles to fill up with water.  But we have very little food.

There is no toilet in the park.  We must go behind the church.

My son used to work to support us.  He is a good chef.  He worked at a restaurant by the Hotel Montana.  The restaurant was destroyed.  He lost his job.  There is no work.

During all my days, I have never seen anything like this.   I am not in a good position to say what will happen next.  I think things are not going to change.  I hope things will get better.  But I don’t think so.

My son has no job and he cannot help our family.  If my son is working, we can all stand up.  If he is not working, we are down.

The future is not clear.  It looks dark for us.

Nadege Dora, 28

My name is Nadege Dora.  I am 28.  I have three boys and one girl.  I am supposed to deliver my baby this month.

I now live in the plaza in Petionville with the rest of my family.  Our house was destroyed.   I used to sell bread on the street to make a little money. The father of the children does not help us.  It is as if we are not alive to him.

We are just trying to survive.  No one in our family is working.  There is no work.

If you get a ticket you can go get a bag of rice.  But I am a pregnant woman.  I cannot fight the crowds for a ticket.  I tried.  But people were squashing me and I was afraid I would get knocked down and crushed.

My niece helped a woman bring rice back from Delmas [another neighborhood outside of Port au Prince].  She shared her rice with us.  Right now we still have some rice.  But we have no oil.  No meat, no milk, nothing but rice.  We have no money to buy other ingredients.

Since the earthquake I have never eaten a full meal.

When my baby comes, I will go to the Red Cross tent to have the baby.  I went there to see a Doctor.  They gave me some pills.  Those pills made me sick.

The mayor came here and asked people if we had relatives in the countryside.  They would help us go there.  But we do not want to go to the countryside.  We don’t know anybody in the countryside.  We need to have a better life than this.

Garry Philippe, 47

My name is Garry Philippe.  I am 47.  I live by the airport entrance.  I built my own tent.  I tied a sheet to a tree and I put up poles to hold up other sheets.

I live here with my five children.  My wife was killed in our house in the incident.  We lived in Village Solidarity.  I owned our house.  I built our house over 4 years, step by step, as I got the money.  I was outside when it happened.  My girls were by the front door and ran out.  My wife ran back to help the boys and she died.

We had no funeral for my wife because we have no money for a funeral.  I buried her myself in a cemetery by Cite Soleil.

The children cannot imagine that their mother is gone just like that.  They are always thinking about their mother.

We do not have beds.  When it is time to sleep we put bags on the ground.  Then we put our covers on the bags and sleep.

We wash ourselves by putting water in a bottle.  Then we stand in a pot and pour the water on our selves.

When it rained we went to a place where they had a plastic tent.  We stayed there till the rain stopped.  More than 20 people were inside that tent.

Before, I was a mechanic in a garage.  Where I worked was destroyed.  There is no work since the quake.

We heard other camps got bags of rice.  In our camp, nothing.  I ask friends for food.  Sometimes someone will give us something to eat.

We have no toilet in this camp.  When we have to make a toilet, we do it in a bag.  Then we bring the bag to the edge of the camp.  It is about a one minute walk away.

We see the trucks going in and out of the airport.  Many trucks.  But the trucks never stop for us.

It is not safe here.  But what can I do?  I accept it, it is God’s work.  We pray in the camp together.

No one has come to talk to us to tell us what is going on.  We know nothing about tents or tarps.  There is no school for the children.

I cannot tell you exactly what is going to happen next.  I am not the Lord.  I think it is going to get worse for us in the camps.   We need tents and food.  We need water and school and jobs.  We need help to find a place to stay.  The rain is coming soon.  Water is going to come and our babies will lose their lives.

BILL QUIGLEY is legal director at the Center for Constitutional rights and a long time human rights advocate. This article was written with the assistance of Vladimir Laguerre in Port au Prince. You can contact Bill at: quigley77@gmail.com.

Bill Quigley teaches law at Loyola University New Orleans and can be reached at quigley77@gmail.com.