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IMB, partners race winter to help house homeless Turks

ADAPAZARI, Turkey (BP)–Open spaces that once were green are now white. From a distance, it looks as if the winter snows have come early for residents of Adapazari, Turkey.
But these shimmering white fields are not covered with snow. They are filled with white tents housing thousands of people left homeless by the Aug. 17 earthquake that devastated northwestern Turkey.
More than 17,000 people died and at least 50,000 were injured in the quake, which also left more than 200,000 people homeless. Now most of them are living in scattered tent communities all over the region.
As the weather has turned cold and wet — an unfriendly reminder of the approaching winter — thoughts have turned to ways to protect these people from the extreme temperatures just around the corner. The makeshift shelters housing many Turkish families are simple white desert tents with no floors. They are neither insulated nor waterproof.
“Basically, these tents are only good for keeping the sun off of you,” said a Southern Baptist helping with relief efforts. “Some people have started wrapping plastic around the tents to keep out moisture and to make it warmer inside.”
The search for permanent housing that can be erected quickly prompted relief workers to look into purchasing prefabricated homes. Southern Baptists hope to combine efforts with a Finnish aid organization and Samaritan’s Purse to purchase the 21-square-meter homes. The cost of one home — completely furnished — is approximately $4,200.
The homes will consist of an electric stove, refrigerator, shower, sink, toilet, simple kitchen equipment and beds. The city of Adapazari will prepare the site and install electric and water lines to each unit. A small playground and a modest laundry facility are also planned.
The prefabricated houses are an answer to prayer, the Southern Baptist relief worker said.
“The city planner I talked to about this idea was planning for 45 units,” he said. “When I told her I would like to supply 75, she started crying, because everyone in the neighborhood could be housed.”
Southern Baptists and their partners hope to purchase at least 150 prefabricated homes — and perhaps as many as 300 — for residents of Adapazari, a city of 250,000. Current relief efforts include four feeding kitchens. The International Mission Board released $100,000 in human needs funds to get the housing project off the ground.
With the help of Southern Baptist relief funds, members of Hope International Church in Istanbul bought a water truck to help distribute clean drinking water in some of the cities hardest hit by the quake. About 1,000 simple tents were assembled and distributed to help keep the sun and rain off people who were homeless. Workers also distributed $50,000 worth of food, soap, diapers and other necessities in the earthquake zone.
Donations designated for Turkey may be sent to: International Mission Board, Hunger and Relief Fund, P.O. Box 6767, Richmond, VA 23230.