Forum Workshop: "It's a Home, Stupid"

S > 4W + R. Translation – shelter is greater than four walls and a roof. In the Forum 2013 workshop session “Sheltering Affected Populations: ‘It’s a Home, Stupid’,” Kip Scheidler of Habitat for Humanity International facilitated a conversation with Sohini Sarkar of Global Communities, Dr. Fred Krimgold of Virginia Tech, and Chuck Setchell of USAID/OFDA on how shelter is not just a structure, it’s a home in a community.

When responding to an emergency, the development context and underlying vulnerabilities must be taken into account in order to have an appropriate and effective humanitarian shelter response. All too often, in the midst of a disaster, we miss opportunities to use shelter relief as a means to bridge the gap with faster early and long-term recovery. This is particularly the case in urban areas where the complexity generated by the interconnectedness of population density, exposure to risk, and demands of urban services demand a more integrated approach to shelter response. Or in the words of Setchell, “Shelter doesn’t exist in a vacuum.”

Taking a settlements approach goes beyond just providing shelter. It also means, according to Sarkar, involving affected populations to ensure an effective transitions from shelter to home. Additionally, Dr. Krimgold believes that addressing regulatory capacity, including improving and adhering to building codes and better land management, is also a necessary step towards more permanent solutions.

Providing shelter interventions that are context – specific and based on an understanding the vulnerabilities of households and communities is a more holistic approach that will lead  to more permanent, durable, and safer shelter solutions.

Contributed by Abby Bruell