Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Community Care Network, Ocean Springs, MS


The Community Care Network (CCN) has operated a transitional program in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, since 1993, for women reentering the community from the county detention center or residential substance abuse treatment. The organization was formalized as a 501(c)(3) in 2003, and opened a transitional housing facility that could serve up to nine residents in 2005, offering a general educational development diploma, job skills assistance, and religiously based services. It had four clients at the time of the storm.

Key Features of Community Care Network
  • Response to local pastors request to coordinate influx of volunteers and evacuees in directors church.
  • Close connection to church created access to facilities, volunteers, and funding.
  • Targeted services to populations of perceived need.

Because of the magnitude of the storm, the directors local church began receiving both volunteers and hurricane victims; the pastor asked the director, a congregant, to coordinate the influx. She put the transitional program on hold and took on volunteer coordination two weeks after the storm. Using web sites, including Katrina Recovery Mississippi and Volunteer Mississippi, which were linked to the governors web site, the director posted information on the housing facility and asked for volunteers. People began pouring in; there were at times 250 people in the [church] gym. The YMCA down the street offered the use of its showers.

Volunteer teams were sent into the community to repair houses, targeting populations deemed particularly needythe elderly, single mothers, and individuals who were defrauded by contractors. By October 2005, the director hired a former employee with whom she had worked at a substance abuse program, using funding provided by a church in Olympia, Washington.

CCN and the church also became an informal distribution point for the extensive donations coming into the area, including military vehicles with water and Meals Ready to Eat, and other donations arriving on tractor-trailers. Volunteer teams were used to assess individual needs in the community and distribute goods. Official points of distribution were set up by the military four months later, and CCN scaled back its efforts. But individuals and organizations in the immediate community continued to arrive with donations and set tables up on their own, distributing materials from the church parking lot. According to one, the donation effort took on a life of its own.

After 11 months, Volunteers of America (VOA) donated a mobile home and two VOA case managers, permitting CCN to relocate to the church parking lot, use teams to identify families in the community who needed assistance, and refer them to VOA to take their cases to the countys long-term recovery structure[14] for funding.

Volunteer teams continued for two and a half years, at first mostly demucking and gutting houses; distributing clothes, water, and food; and assessing needs. As rebuilding needs changed, CCN posted requests for skilled teams competent to provide specific housing repairs, matching teams to the work required. Teams in the field often inquired about residents on the same street and forwarded those requests to CCN. The program reportedly filled over 500 work orders on over 300 homes and ultimately fielded more than 5,500 volunteers. CCN received two $50,000 grants from the Maryland Crime Victim Resource Center (under an overall grant from the U.S. Department of Justice Office of Victims and Crime), with which it repaired 35 houses.

At this writing, CCNs recovery efforts are expected to end as outside support for the rebuilding activities has waned and volunteer flows have ebbed. CCN has returned to its original mission, reopened the transitional home for women, and teaches Bible-based self-esteem and life skills classes in collaboration with a six-month program at the county detention facility. That program has 30 to 40 female participants (with a waiting list) and around 120 men.

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