Haitians Tear Down Camp On Highway Median Haiti's earthquake left more than 1 million people homeless. Roughly 1,000 of those in need of shelter created a place to live on an 8-foot-wide highway median. More than a year after the disaster, the people living in that camp are being moved out of the traffic.
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Haitians Tear Down Camp On Highway Median

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Haitians Tear Down Camp On Highway Median

Haitians Tear Down Camp On Highway Median

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STEVE INSKEEP, host:

We heard Frank explain how an improved road is a sign of progress for a new nation. In Haiti, a road was home for a thousand people. They lived for months on the median strip of a busy highway. NPR's Jason Beaubien found them last year on the main route leading south from Port-au-Prince. Now the refugees have finally moved off the highway.

JASON BEAUBIEN: Residents of the encampment disassembled their makeshift shelters themselves. In a city where almost half the population remains in camps, this settlement had the distinction of being the narrowest. It was also possibly the most hazardous.

In May of last year, we counted 326 structures stretched in a long line of the middle of the six-lane road. Each structure covered the width of the median. Traffic rushed by both sides of the dwellings. Late last month, 50-year-old Louisanna Dema was taking down her sheet-metal shack. She said she's very happy to be leaving here.

Ms. LOUISANNA DEMA: (Through translator) It was not good because a lot of cars and then we get sick often.

BEAUBIEN: Dema lived for almost a year in this shack with her husband and four children. The Adventist Development and Relief Agency, ADRA, built 160 transitional shelters for Dema and the other families from the median. The new shelters are simply structures with unfinished plywood walls, cement floors and tin roofs. Dema says they're beautiful.

Ms. DEMA: (Foreign language spoken)

BEAUBIEN: Yes, I like it, she says of her new home.

Officials with ADRA say the shelters cost roughly $1,400 apiece to build and should last for three to five years.

Aid agencies had planned to build more than 100,000 such transitional shelters. They've, however, had difficulty finding land clear of earthquake rubble and where there's a clear title of ownership.

(Soundbite of banging)

BEAUBIEN: As the residents from this camp tear down their shacks and move into new plywood houses, it's clear that the need for housing remains huge.

Mr. RASHID MAGNAN: A lot of us don't have a place to stay, you know, and it's a year after.

BEAUBIEN: Rashid Magnan says he also lost his house in the earthquake.

Mr. MAGNON: You know, I live right inside this place right here. It's like by the water, so you know, it's nothing but, like, metal sheets, you know? So you don't really have a home.

BEAUBIEN: Magnan, who spent much of his life in the United States, says the only reason no one's giving him a house is because he wasn't crazy enough to move into the middle of a road.

Mr. MAGNON: You know, God is great. I'm going to wait for my turn.

BEAUBIEN: But with almost a million people still living in camps around the Haitian capital, it's unclear when or if his turn will ever come.

Jason Beaubien, NPR News.

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