Haitians Use Streets as Place of Healing

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PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - At least 2 million Haitians have been left homeless by the earthquake and they are taking shelter wherever they can find it.

Selanie Josef has to move fast, well as fast as her age will allow her to.

As the sun dips over her destroyed city of Port-au-Prince, Josef is getting ready for the night. She begins by staking out her plot. She is sleeping at the intersection of Maco Joux and Freres Road.

"Why are you here on the street?," CBN News asked Josef.

"Because, this is the only place that I could find that's close to my destroyed home," she answered.

Josef is among the tens of thousand of people who have thrown up makeshift shelters across the city. More than 320 camps have sprung up in Port-au-Prince and its suburbs since the earthquake. But this sleeping arrangement is unique in that thousands of people are literally sleeping on the road, in the some cases right in the middle of the road.

All down the city streets at each major intersection, hundreds of people are getting ready to go to bed.

"It is hard on my back, sleeping on this concrete, but what other option do I have," Josef said.

Life on the street is busy. Women are preparing dinner. Kids are doing their homework. During the day, residents leave to go look for work or food. At night, the streets begin to fill up with people.

"Do you know the person who sleeps to the left and to the right of you?," CBN News asked Josef.

"My children and grand children sleep with me," Josef answered. "Then there are strangers who have all lost their homes that sleep around us."

But to be clear, nobody likes living here. It is hot and uncomfortable. It smells and there is trash everywhere. Hazardous problems range from sewage water running down the road, hanging electrical wires, exhaust fumes from passing cars. Animals running loose in the street. The list goes on.

"The air is so bad, there's so much noise, said Peter, a resident of Port-au-Prince "It is very hard to sleep."

Those who are sleeping in the street share one thing in common -- almost all have lost loved ones in the earthquake. And so the intersections have become places of healing.

"We get together at night to sing and pray and that helps," said Judy, another Port-au-Prince native.

No one here is talking about going back home anytime soon. There have been several big aftershocks in recent days that have kept everyone here on edge.

Still, in some corners of the city, grocery stores are starting to reopen. And there has been talk of moving some of the 400,000 people made homeless by the quake to new housing accommodations on the outskirts of the city.

Until then, Josef will be back the following evening again preparing her bed at the intersection of Maco Joux and Freres.

"When you go to bed at night, what do you ask God?," CBN News asked Josef.

"I ask him to watch over me while I'm sleeping on the road," Josef replied. "To protect me and keep me. I know He does."

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