About Shipping Containers, Housing, Haitians, and Health

4 Feb


As we toil away, tearing floors out of 20′ ISBU “test boxes”, to start devising the final plan to build small, transportable, extremely mobile, medical clinics to the Haitians in Port Au Prince, I’m literally getting flooded with email from people who are talking about providing housing to Haitians.

First, to clarify what WE are doing:

The reason that we chose 20′ Containers is that they are light enough to be loaded on flatbed trailers and literally pulled all over Haiti by pick-up truck or even UN SUV’s. And, if there aren’t any roads, you can move them around using helicopters quite easily. You can literally drop these anywhere to provide immediate Emergency Medical Care.

It doesn’t make sense to build 40′ ISBU Medical Centers that can’t be moved, or even gotten out of the Port Authorities, until “hell freezes over.”

Since I was contacted by the “Clinton  Cluster mumble grumble snort…” I’ve been contacted several times a day, by people, groups and corporations looking for some “fast-quick band-aid that can be “sold” into the Aid Funding Programs” that are headed for Haiti.

Some of the “solutions” are just laughable.

And some seem to have merit, until you really look at them. One of my favorites right now is the scheme that is being promoted by a hotel Bigwig in Orlando, FL, named Harris Rosen, where he wants to basically partner with other entrepreneurs and companies, to send $5,000 “Little Houses” to Haiti, that would be sold to Haitians, at 1% interest, to provide housing.

A hard look at the housing model will demonstrate that;

  • The structure in question won’t last the length of the “mortgage note.”
  • The structure isn’t appropriate to the task,
  • and worst of all, isn’t an “affordable solution.”

While much can be said about people (who actually mean well) who step up and try to provide solutions, their solutions have to  fit what I call “the scenario of task”.

Even IF you could ship a container ship to Haiti filled with these “housing alternatives”, it wouldn’t work.

$5,000 at 1% over say… 10 years is $45 a month.

$5,000 at 1% at 20 years, is still $23 a month.

The average Haitian worker makes $2 a DAY. And, only one person in eight was actually working, BEFORE the earthquake. And…

They still have to eat. They still need fuel to cook with (and even generate heat), and water.

Let’s not bring into play that these structures won’t LAST 10-20 years… Oh wait, I already did.

And, that’s IF they ever get out of the port storage yards that they’ll be shipped to.

Beyond that, IF you did this, you’d just be creating another “shanty town” waiting for the next disaster.

What we’re seeing now in Haiti is that people are starving to death, while supplies sit locked in Port Complexes under the control of a corrupt government.

Haitians need medical attention NOW.  They need food and water. What they don’t need is a “solution” that is anything but.

I’m a big believer in that old cliche: “Give a man a fish, and he eats for a day. Teach a man to fish, and he eats for a lifetime…” or something like that.

We have to help the Haitians help themselves. Being self-determined and self-responsible is a huge part of maintaining a state of wellness, after a crisis.

There are over a million Haitians homeless right now. This is Hurricane Katrina on a humongous scale. What Haitians will need is a high density housing solution…  one that is modular, easily producible, and robust enough to be built by HAITIANS IN HAITI, using materials they already have on hand.

They won’t have tons and tons of building supplies to work with. Folks, the reality is that those “highbrow, high-tech supplies” will get shipped in, stacked up in containers, and then stockpiled,  while the people in control figure out how to divert those goods into currency that they can put in their own pockets.

If you don’t believe me, then all you have to do is consult your history books, or even Cable TV.

Haitians need EMPOWERMENT. That means that we have to give them tools… not hand-outs.

Getting them well, getting them strong enough to start rebuilding is the first task.

That’s why “The Container Cavalry” is working to build these “Medical Outreach Clinics”.

We’ve been doing this less than two weeks, and we already have a long list of doctors and nurses who have offered to go to Haiti and staff them. Staffed by teams of doctors and nurses, just like the “Doctors Without Borders”  teams we are all so fond of, these  small Clinics will help the country heal, by actually healing them.

Then, and only then, can we help them to rebuild their city, and their nation.

Here’s something to think about (and for the life of me, I don’t know why nobody is talking about this):

The Haitians in Port Au Prince have tons and tons of rubble and shattered concrete buildings that can be crushed and then used as materials to build stout, strong structures that will help defy Mother Nature.

Crushers could be brought in to be used as rubble was cleared away, sector by sector. And hey, those crushers are large enough that nobody could just “steal them.”

In that regard, all we’d need to do is send them steel rebar to reinforce those concrete buildings with…

The Haitians don’t have time to wait for politicians, bureaucrats, or corrupt government officials. They need our help NOW.

Even though we are just “little guys” we can use “our broad backs and our hands” to make a difference.

If you want to help us build these boxes, or if you just want to aid our struggle by chipping in a few bucks, you know where the Paypal button is, and you know my email address… Both are up there on the right side of your monitor, right now.


And, if you pray, I ask you to remember Haiti, especially the Haitian kids, who literally have no one to aid them, right now. At last the adults have a chance at fending for themselves.

(RED HUBER, at the ORLANDO SENTINEL  took that photo, on February 2, 2010)

2 Responses to “About Shipping Containers, Housing, Haitians, and Health”

  1. cruft February 10, 2010 at 6:04 pm #

    don’t worry. no problema. we are bringing them here. that’s the solution.m happy now?

    • renaissanceronin February 10, 2010 at 6:24 pm #

      No, I’m NOT happy now. WHO are YOU?
      What is it that you are bringing? Medicine? Tools? Rock Crushers? Rebar?
      I won’t be “happy” until kids stop dying, needlessly.

      Or do you mean that you’re taking the kids OUT of Haiti? Turning Haitian children in American children doesn’t mend Haiti. Or even contribute to it’s future. Orphanages capable of mending, caring, and educating children can be built in Haiti (at high speed even), if someone would just make it a priority, instead of a boondoggle… a mechanism to let “the good old boys” latch onto the tit of the funding, as they protect their profit margins for AID…

      All I care about is that they’re KIDS, not some “publicity op.”

      They could be YOUR KIDS, or MINE…

      Sorry if this sounds brisk or mean-spirited. I am just sick and tired of watching the parade…


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