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Miyamoto emphasized that one of the most crucial elements for the public safety was how well the shelters’ limitations were explained to the community expected to use them. “Hopefully people do understand that these windows do need to be protected if a major hurricane is expected to be coming,” he said. Miyamoto said the likelihood is “really high” that the windows will break without storm shutters, and “once those window systems break,” he explained, making a toppling motion with his arms, “you cannot just be in there.” The roof will “pop off.”
When asked if the shelters had come with any storm shutters, Andre Hercule, director of Saint Thérèse de Darbonne elementary school, which has also received Clinton trailers, shook his head, then grabbed the nearest open trailer window and effortlessly slid it shut. Clicking it locked, he explained, “We’d close all the windows.” The school director remains confident after hearing Clinton speak at a news conference in August 2010 at his school that the trailers are hurricane-proof.
Léogâne’s Department of Civil Protection may also be operating on this assumption. At the Léogâne town hall, a derelict white paint-chipped building that looks stately in contrast to the seventeen-month-old tent camp nearby, DCP coordinator Philippe Joseph explained the municipality’s plans for community outreach in the event of a hurricane. “We’ll send scouts with megaphones and tell people to gather their papers and go to the Clinton Foundation shelters,” he said as he sketched a rough map, indicating the best routes to the dual-purpose school buildings from the geographic zones most vulnerable to storms.
Asked if he believed the trailers would offer adequate protection during a hurricane, Joseph seemed taken aback: Clinton had himself said that these were hurricane-proof shelters, he said.
In a jungly field on the outskirts of Léogâne, four of the twenty Clinton classrooms sit empty at another school, Coeur de Jesus. Because of the trailers’ leaky roofs, puddles form on the floor that need to be mopped up by the maintenance staff. As school director Antoine Beauvais explained, the new sixteen-by-forty-foot trailers were too bulky to fit in the cramped residential area where his school was previously located. But for lack of toilet facilities or running water provided by the foundation for the newly created remote campus, the school has been unable to use its new trailer classrooms.
When The Nation visited the site with Miyamoto, at least one strap on a trailer slated to be used as a hurricane shelter in the coming months was already loose. As Miyamoto moved the slack metal ribbon that is meant to ensure the trailer stays stable during a storm, the structural engineer remarked that these kinds of anchoring systems are liable to corrode. “You definitely want to look at it at least once a year,” he said grimly.
It’s unclear whether such maintenance will occur. Clayton Homes recently visited some of the schools after the International Organization for Migration, which works with the UN, raised concerns about the condition of the shelters. However, Conille said he did not know anything about plans the Clinton Foundation had made for the maintenance of the “hurricane shelters” in the longer term. The Haitian contractor who was initially hired to help install the shelters, Philippe Cinéas of AC Construction, said that neither he nor his staff were trained to service them. This raised concerns for Cinéas because, as he knew from experience, “in Haiti maintenance is always a problem.”
While Clinton Foundation COO Laura Graham claims that the foundation has always been “very accessible” to the school and municipal officials in Léogâne, neither the school directors nor the civil protection coordinator had any way of getting in touch with the foundation, they told The Nation, and had to resort to going through intermediaries.
Joseph, the DCP chief for Léogâne, faults the trailer project for being decided from afar and “from the top down,” like so much of Haiti relief. While the Clinton Foundation claims that it worked with local government to implement the shelter plan, Joseph disputes this. The foundation simply informed him that it was building four schools in his district, he says. “To me this is not a consultation,” the local official remarked. “To consult people you have to ask them what they need and how they think it could best be implemented.”
Joseph ascribes the new shelters’ “infernal” heat, humidity and other problems to this lack of on-the-ground consultation. He added, with regret, that people in desperate need of employment and shelters watched as “the Clinton Foundation came in with all its specialists and equipment, but they didn’t give any training.” He said that “if they use a local firm they will not only create jobs in a community that has been decapitalized by the quake but they will also take into account the environmental reality on the ground.”
In the proposal approved by the IHRC, the Clinton Foundation said that “up to 300 local workers would be employed to build the schools.” Cinéas said there were only five to eight people hired by his firm on a very temporary basis, and the foundation declined to comment on what additional jobs were created.