Empowering an Urban Community After Disaster (2011)

A community-based enumeration conducted in the community of Simon-Pelé to assess damage and address land tenure after the 2010 earthquake.

Monitoring Techniques Used

The Simon-Pelé enumeration was based on a standardized set of questions developed by a working group of Haiti's Inter-ministerial Committee for Territorial Planning. The enumeration process involved: forming and supporting community-based survey teams; numbering and mapping buildings; surveying every household for information about demographics and economic activity; and focus groups to create community maps and use them to decide which needs are most urgent. Local university architecture students help with training, verifying and compiling the data into a database. The process was punctuated by community mass meetings and celebrations designed to cement broad commitment to the process.

Summary of Findings

Simon-Pelé is a neighborhood in Port-au-Price that is home to 23,000 low-income squatter residents. Following the 2010 earthquake, at least 8,000, over a third of its residents, relocated to one of eight camps surrounding their former neighborhood. Community teams have mapped and numbered at least 4,000 buildings, and surveyed 6,000 households in Simon-Pelé. An important finding of the enumeration was that safe water, not housing repair or reconstruction, was the biggest priority of the community. Two community water points were constructed as a result. Women’s groups included in the enumeration insisted on the importance of installing streetlights in their neighborhood for safety, a priority that would have been missed without their voice.

Advocacy and Impact

Through this community-building process, the area now has a critical mass of aware and empowered residents capable of organizing for change. The quality of information about affordable housing is more accurate and richer using an enumeration process because people tend to share more, and exaggerate less, when talking to neighbors. More accurate data and deeper community engagement, in turn, increases the efficiency and effectiveness of specific housing project design. The resulting pool of trained and committed local residents serves as yeast for future work, both within Simon-Pelé, and for other neighborhoods in need of the enumeration process. 

Further Reading

Habitat for Humanity, Shelter Report 2012 — Build Hope: Housing Cities After a Disaster. Link to source.

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