Haitians in Florida: Next Steps

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One year ago Haiti was devastated by earthquakes that have destroyed the basic infrastructure of the government and made living conditions inside Haiti unbearable for those left to deal with the affects of the earthquake. As displaced Haitians began to arrive on the shores of the US, LIRS has been an active responder from day one of this crisis. Taking the lead in developing safeguards for displaced Haitian children, LIRS also, through local partners, Lutherans Services of Florida, and LCMS and ELCA Lutheran congregations, worked with newly arrived Haitians in need of immediate care.

Now, one year after the tragic incident, LIRS is poised to extend its efforts in serving those that continue to receive support from local Lutheran congregations. Through generous church support LIRS will, in the very near future, launch the Haitian Response Project. Through this project LIRS will work with those actively serving displaced people from Haiti to develop a real time, real needs based approach.

Initial conversations with local service leaders like Danielle Kearney, LSF Director of Church & Community Relations, Doug Kalleson, Executive Director of Mission & outreach for the Florida-Georgia District and the Haitian Lawyers Association LIRS is listening to those that can best articulate the current need “on the ground” for Haitian families and children.

These community conversations have identified target locations for continued service like Miami, Broward County, West Palm Beach, Orlando Area, Fort Myers, Naples. In these targeted areas LIRS will equip local Lutherans with the tools to listen to Haitian families and local partners with a plan to support families and protect children. LIRS has a sustained plan to glean the experience of these local partners and continue to adjust strategies as local needs change and new needs arise. Targeted service opportunities currently rising from community conversation include support for employment services, legal relief assistance, housing, medical care, and support in how to screen for potential victims of trafficking in this vulnerable population.

LIRS stands in solidarity with local Lutheran partners to continue to provide sustained support that is in line with the needs stated from within the displaced Haitian community. We are proud of the work we have accomplished this year, but realize that the needs of this community will persist until peace and stability comes to the nation of Haiti; and we are prepared to stay the course in partnership with congregations and community leaders.

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