Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Distance from the Storms Impact


Distance from the storms impact may dictate how quickly FBCOs respond and how long they continue to give services. The survey found that FBCOs away from the storms impact areas were both quick to respond and to leavethat is, more than half ended their assistance within three months after the storm. Understandably, fewer FBCOs in the primary impact area responded immediatelyno doubt because of the devastation in these areas and the restrictions imposed on returning to areas under evacuation orders that lasted many weeks after the storms. But over time, more than half of FBCOs in the primary impact areas began to provide some type of long-term recovery service and continued to do so at the time of the survey.

Five of the case study organizations illustrate the types of FBCO assistance provided in the primary impact area. For example, one priest, whose church was severely damaged and whose congregation had evacuated, attached himself to a church outside the impact area and returned to New Orleans daily to help his congregation and neighborhood residents clean up and rebuild. Both Mississippi cases began almost immediately to rebuild their own or others facilities. The two case study organizations in southwestern Louisiana were able to respond immediately to Hurricane Katrina and within days to Hurricane Rita.

The survey data underscore the point that many FBCOs, particularly religious congregations, are able to provide immediate, emergency relief services, but they are less likely to have the capacity or interest in sustaining their involvement over a long period. As noted earlier, housing rehabilitation may be the exception. Congregations in particular have engaged in sustained housing rehabilitation work in the Gulf Coast area. However, this work is undertaken by a smaller share of FBCOs than those that responded immediately after the crisis, and it is often assisted by running formalized programs that bring volunteers from outside to help.

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