By Dr. Chad Audi
The deadly earthquake that devastated Haiti has left more than one million people homeless. As the people of Haiti try to cope with the massive loss of life, they must also struggle with the fact that so many of them have no where to live. Makeshift homes and refugee camps can be found throughout the capital of Port-Au-Prince. The Haitian government has just announced plans to set up tent cities in order to house more than 400,000 people in a safer, cleaner environment outside Port-Au-Prince. And Habitat for Humanity International is planning to erect thousands of expandable and quake-resistant one-room homes to shelter the homeless.
This natural disaster has created a human services crisis in Haiti, which will linger for months and probably years to come. But for now, the world is coming to Haiti’s aid. Thanks to the incredible generosity of people throughout the world, much needed emergency supplies — food and water — are making its way to Haiti. Health care workers are donating their time to treat the masses of people injured in the quake. Nearly $1 billion in emergency and long term aid has been pledged by foreign nations, including the United States. There has been an outpouring of donations from people around the world.
Here in the U.S., we have recently seen the ranks of the homeless swell under our struggling economy. At the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM), we have seen people walk in who have lost their homes to foreclosure or who can’t afford to eat. They are among the new faces of the homeless. But the number of newly homeless in Haiti is staggering. Imagine one million people who suddenly have no place to live!
The entire world is focused on helping the people of Haiti and rebuilding that tiny nation as quickly as possible. It warms my heart and makes me proud to witness the kindness and true compassion of the human race.
By Dr. Chad Audi
Much of the United States — and parts of the world — are in the midst of a severe cold snap. Here in Detroit, temperatures have dipped into the single digits, while the East Coast is grappling with major snowstorms. Even parts of India are experiencing unusual near-freezing weather. Normally, winters are short and mild in that region, but the cold temperatures have led to the deaths of at least sixteen homeless people, despite the government’s efforts to provide the poor with blankets and firewood.
In Vancouver, B.C. a controversial new law called the “Assistance to Shelter Act” just went into effect. It gives police the authority to “apprehend” people who are sleeping outside when an emergency weather alert is declared. While officials say the law is designed to prevent cold weather deaths among the homeless, critics contend it’s an effort to rid Vancouver of homeless individuals while it hosts the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Regardless, it’s hard to argue about the impact of extreme weather conditions on the homeless. They are the most vulnerable victims of the bitter cold temperatures. If you live in a cold weather state, you know exactly what I mean. The next time you’re out in the cold, bundled up in layers of clothing and running errands or going to work, try to imagine how it would feel to have no where to go to warm up. No heated house. No warm, dry clothes to change into. No fireplace to sit by. And no hot coffee or tea to warm your insides. It’s a frightening thought, isn’t it?
That’s why winter is perhaps the busiest time at the Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries (DRMM). We never say “no” to the homeless who come to our door for a respite from the cold and snow. We make room for them and provide a warm place to sleep, dry clothing to wear, and hot food to eat. For the homeless, it’s a matter of life and death. And as a faith-based organization, saving lives is how we serve God.