Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Hope Haven, Waveland, MS

12/20/2008

Hope Haven for Children in Waveland, Mississippi, had been Hancock Countys only shelter for neglected and abused children since 1996. In anticipation of Hurricane Katrina, the children were evacuated by the county child welfare authorities. Staff also relocated, and the storm surge and flooding severely damaged the facility. Once restored but without proper staff, Hope Haven was unable to reopen as a licensed shelter. Over the course of two and a half years of recovery, because of the directors determination, social and professional connections, and some serendipity, Hope Haven played several roles in relief efforts.

Key Features of Hope Haven
  • Social and professional connections shaped relief efforts.
  • Highly motivated and respected director used organization funds and donations to fill perceived gaps in human services, specifically child services.
  • Conscious effort to document and segregate disaster-related expenditures.

The shelter was rebuilt during the immediate aftermath of the storm through a confluence of social and professional connections. The director returned to demuck and rebuild, using program funds to purchase equipment and hire local help. A police officer happened upon him, offered water in the oppressive heat, and later came into contact with a group of 200 Navy Seabees that had been ordered from their home base in Gulfport, Mississippi, to report to the Hancock County Emergency Operations Center to help clear roads. The chief of battalion, hearing the story of Hope Havens director who was a retired Navy chief, redirected the Seabees to assist, and over a period of two months two teams of Seabees rebuilt the shelter.

Knowing Hope Haven would not reopen as a licensed childrens shelter, the director used the programs resources for several post-storm services. When he voiced his concerns about the availability of social services to a state social worker, he learned that the entire county Division of Family and Childrens Services had lost its facility in the storm. He offered the use of Hope Haven, and within three days the entire Division of Family and Childrens Services moved in. After the Division moved out, the facility was used through July 2008 to house 1012 volunteers a week who came to rebuild. The director used a web-posting to amass material donations, largely toys and furniture, but also appliances and clothing, and used the childrens recreation building as a warehouse and distribution center. A furniture company in Wisconsin donated 800 pieces of furniture, mostly bedroom sets, and those were distributed to target groups viewed as particularly needy or deserving, including police, fire fighters, and teachers, the Salvation Armys homeless shelters in Jackson County and Mobile, and another shelter in Louisiana. In the first year, Hope Haven also distributed over $40,000 in gift cards and cash. When the city pressed to close free food distributions to stimulate local restaurants and businesses, the warehouse served as a distribution point for the local food bank.

The massive donation distributions made it clear that the organization, unlike some others, needed to formalize its relief efforts and extensive records. By March 2006, Hope Haven created a separate accounting structure, the Helping Hands Fund, to manage Katrina relief donations, and the mission statement was changed to include Helping Hands and disaster relief. The program has detailed records on funds disbursement (e.g., purchase of school uniforms, paying for utilities, food, respite care).

By early 2008 volunteers had begun to leave, and on July 21 Hope Haven reopened as a childrens facility, but reconfigured as a small foster home with a live-in foster parent structure for six to seven children. Because insurance rates have nearly doubled, Hope Haven plans to sell the building and move to another facility further inland.

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