Protecting Haitian Families by Replacing Unsafe Housing

When tropical storms and hurricanes crashed into U.S. coastlines last year, Americans got a stark reminder of just how damaging strong winds and driving rain can be to homes and communities. You can imagine how much more catastrophic storms like these are when they hit villages in a country like Haiti — where poor families live in makeshift shelters built from sticks, lumber scraps, plastic tarps and rusty sheet metal.

Here, poor families live in fear of the hurricane season. These big storms are particularly dangerous as 58.5% of the population lives in poverty. The poor live in shanty houses too flimsy to stand up to the wind, rain and flooding. For example, when Hurricane Matthew hit Haiti in 2016, nearly 550 fatalities were officially reported — and others estimated the actual death count was closer to 1,500.

Related: Responding to the Housing Crisis in Haiti

Personal Accounts of Homes Destroyed by Hurricanes

Many of the Haitian families we work with have shared their personal accounts of surviving tropical storms and hurricanes. Their stark descriptions paint a horrifying picture.

“When the hurricane hit, our house collapsed,” Durena Leger, a survivor of Hurricane Matthew, recalled. “We went to a neighbor’s house. It collapsed. Then we went to another neighbor’s house, and it collapsed too.”

Hearing about these tragedies makes it easy to understand why local Catholic leaders in Haiti have made it a priority to replace these flimsy shanties with hurricane-resistant cement-block homes.

“Scripture teaches that we should treat others as we would want to be treated,” explained Jim Cavnar, president of Cross Catholic Outreach. “As a Catholic ministry, we take that seriously, and since we wouldn’t want our own children or grandchildren to live in fear, we work to replace these ramshackle homes.”

Related: The Human Impact of Safe Housing in Haiti

Donate to Provide Safe Housing

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Answering a Haitian Mother's Plea for a Safe Home

Partnering with local priests and Catholic missions, Cross Catholic Outreach has already built hundreds of storm-resistant homes in Haiti. And with your help, we intend to do more.

In Central Haiti, Cross Catholic Outreach works with Father Glenn Meaux’s Kobonal Haiti Mission to fight poverty and foster spiritual transformation. Eldia Clervil — a devoted mother struggling to raise her seven children in Kobonal — is one of many parents here who dreams of providing their kids with a safe, comfortable place to lay their heads.

At night, Elida’s children fear the howling wind and driving rain within the feeble walls of their small shelter. Watch the video below to see the family’s daily battles firsthand and hear Eldia’s heartfelt prayer for her family.

You Can Help Provide Safe Shelter for Families in Haiti

“Living in conditions like these is degrading, and it robs a family of all hope,” Cavnar said. “When one of our donors helps us provide a needy family with a simple, quality house, the donor solves those issues. The Haitian parents and children feel safe, their health improves, and their dignity is restored. As Catholics, that’s the kind of impact we should want to have. We should want to lift people up and give them hope for a brighter future.”

 Most Cross Catholic Outreach benefactors are surprised to learn that a quality house can be built in Haiti for $8,580. When donors support safe housing initiatives, they can be confident that their giving has produced something tangible and extremely important to the families we serve. Homes also have a lasting impact — often transforming people and communities for generations to come.

Last Advent, parishes across the U.S. participated in our Homes for Christmas Advent project to transform lives, families and communities in Haiti in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.

To help construct and repair homes for the poor worldwide, donate to our General Housing Fund. You can also support a particular safe housing program by finding a project in our Project Catalog that touches your heart.

Related: Understanding Poverty in Haiti and How You Can Help

Thanks to our donors, families like the Meuses are now living in safe, dignified homes.

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Proceeds from this campaign will be used to cover any expenditures incurred through June 30, 2022, the close of our ministry’s fiscal year. In the event that more funds are raised than needed to fully fund the project, the excess funds, if any, will be used to meet the most urgent needs of the ministry.