Little Haiti Town Hall

 

On June 9th, 2018 CLEO hosted a town hall for the community of Little Haiti as part of our Creating Climate Connections program. This was a follow-up to our listening session and our community workshop held the month before. 

During the listening session and the workshop, the themes that emerged were climate gentrification, health,emergency preparednessand communication.Nancy Metayer, a community activist helped CLEO co-facilitate all three events. We had presentations from Miami Dade County’s Office of Emergency Management, on lessons learned from Irma and new initiatives; as well as a presentation from Susan Jacobson, presenting her sea level rise app Eyes on the Rise, as well as the King Tide calendar app, looking at King Tides and flooding in neighborhoods and the connections to gentrification in Little Haiti; and a presentation from the Red Cross on how the organization serves the community in times of need. 

The goal of the town hall was to have an open discussion about how county and city can better serve communities like Little Haiti, that are experiencing rapid changes related to climate change impacts. Gentrification is a very complex issue that cannot be solved in just a few community meetings, but based on comments from the audience, it is clear that it impacts other aspects of community members’ lives. 

We also wanted elected officials to hear directly from the community on what they felt were gaps in city and county approaches to helping residents with these issues and during emergencies. 

Gentrification:

  • In regards to gentrification, the issue of transportation was brought up. For homeowners that have sold their homes and since moved south, transportation has become an issue. For example, for those who do not have personal vehicles or depend on others, this has meant lengthy, complicated bus rides to get to work, access grocery stores etc. This then means less time at home with the children, for family time. The question arose, what can and will the city or county be doing to improve public transportation?Not only would better public transportation help those who need it most, but it could also help reduce the number of cars on the road in Dade county, which suffers from heavy traffic.

-       This remains a problem that the community would like to know more about. 

  • For homeowners still living in Little Haiti, the message overall from those trying to slow the gentrification process has been that the community must not sell and resist offers from developers. However, how do we get this message across to homeowners? Communication is another topic that is connected to all others, as it is the basis for helping the community be informed.

-       It was mentioned that meetings like this are one way that the community can find out more and get valuable information. But what can be done at the city or county level to help disseminate information on these issues? Is the city or county even working on these issues? We know that for emergency preparedness, the county has mailed out the hurricane guides this year to anyone with a mailing address. That is ONE example of the county trying to improve communication. But for other topics, how are citizens getting informed? 

  • Many older homeowners have structural problems with their homes, which has been incentive for some to sell their properties.

-       An initiative recently proposed by local government, would see that funds from the GO Bond be used to give grants to community members to make improvements to their homes. We hope that if these grants do become a reality that community members will be informed so they may apply. This would perhaps incentive people to stay. 

-       For those with weatherization issues the Weatherization Works program was brought up which allows homeowners to get help in order to improve air quality and circulation and insulation in their homes; in some cases, replacing the A/C units entirely if they are not in working order. This is run through County Community Action and Human Services Department. Again, how many people actually know about these programs and how can improve the number of applications? 

Sea Level Rise:

  • Sue Jacobson’s presentation highlighted sea level rise and flooding issues and how this impacts gentrification in areas that are on high ground. This also brought up the topic of what the expected levels will be by end of the century.

-       While some of the general predictions range between 4-6 feet, the higher, more worse-case-scenario predictions are as high as 8-12 feet. It depends on who you speak with. 

-       Miami can adapt. For example, the county has moved many of its wells inland, to cope with salt water intrusion. City of Miami Beach has installed pumps to help pump out the water when the tides are high. We can adapt, but we must also reduce our carbon output significantly so we can slow the impacts of climate change in the county. 

Preparedness:

  • The question of how do poorer households get prepared for hurricanes? How do they stockpile food and water if they do not have funds? One way is to encourage people to start early. Little by little, collecting the items they need for their family.

-       The Red Cross mentioned that for those on foods-tamps, there are food pantries that can help provide food items for them to set aside. Remembering that they can use old water bottles already in their homes to fill with tap water for emergencies, instead of spending money to buy new ones. We must also continue to communicate and remind people that the water was still running last year, following the hurricane. This meant that it was safe to drink the tap water. This also means that we do not need to stockpile enormous amounts of water. (Unless there is a boil water advisory). 

-       Cell phone apps have often been discussed as a way to compliment other methods that city and county use to share information. Most people own a cell phone; therefore, apps can be a good way of reaching the masses. The Ready Miami-Dade (Ready MDC) app available to the public.The app provides real time information before, during, and after a storm; such as bus pickups, flood zones, evacuations centers, evacuation orders and other helpful information.  

Biggest Takeaways

  • There is a need for more conversations between city/county and community members. There’s a disconnect between what city and county are doing to improve the livelihoods of communities like Little Haiti and how these improvements are being communicated. Citizens must have more access to understand what initiatives are underway and have an opportunity to talk directly with their elected officials. Community meetings hosted by CLEO and its partners are very helpful but are only one piece of the puzzle.

  • While city and county offer some relief when it comes to hurricanes, such as sheltering before, during and after emergencies, citizens have to start building more community relationships among themselves; becoming their own advocates. Nancy Metayer discussed the Disaster Response Initiative which addresses some of these issues and aims to improve community readiness to emergencies. The Red Cross also mentioned that they offer classes and trainings to help people become more equipped to deal with emergencies. Volunteering at the Red Cross can also be a good way to get some training and understand the roles that different stakeholders play during an emergency. We need to build community networks that make sense.

  • We must start thinking ahead when it comes to hurricane season. The kits that CLEO handed out were intended to help residents begin to think about preparedness. And to help them start building their own kits. We must think about these issues months before the season starts so we are not caught off guard.

  • Now is a good time to register any family member or friend or neighbor for the Emergency Evacuation & Assistance Program (EEAP)who might need special attention in the event of an emergency or an evacuation. Registration can be done by calling 3-1-1 or by filling out an application in English, Spanish or Kreyol: http://www.miamidade.gov/fire/eeap.asp