Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Lessons Learned

12/20/2008

Hurricanes Katrina and Rita were extraordinary events. When asked to reflect on the lessons learned, survey respondents expressed a wide range of views and opinions.

Steps Taken to Address Future Emergencies

In the aftermath of the hurricanes, some FBCOs in the survey had taken steps to prepare for future emergencies (Table 25). One in four respondents said that since the hurricanes, they have created an emergency action plan to help direct their relief and recovery efforts. One in six cited collaborations as an important outcome of the storms. Less common actions included creating lists of volunteers to use in the future (9 percent) and developing directories of services such as 211 or 311 systems that can serve as information centers (5 percent). Still, more than one in three FBCOs in the survey (36 percent) reported that they have not taken any steps that might prepare them for future emergencies.

Table 25.
Steps Taken to Prepare for Future Emergencies
Characteristic N Percent of Organizations with the Following in Place for Future Storms:
Nothing Emergency
action plans
Partnerships/
collaborations
List of
volunteers
Directories
of services
Other
All respondents 202 35.6 25.2 16.3 9.4 4.5 37.6
               
Faith-based organization 120 45.0** 18.3** 12.5 9.2 4.2 36.7
Secular nonprofit 82 22.0** 35.4** 22.0 9.8 4.9 39.0
               
Louisiana 105 38.1 27.6 16.2 9.5 4.8 37.1
Mississippi 83 32.5 22.9 18.1 8.4 4.8 39.8
Houston, TX 14 35.7 21.4 7.1 14.3 0.0 28.6
               
Primary impact area 77 31.2* 31.2 20.8 6.5 5.2 39.0
Adjacent to impact area 73 30.1* 24.7 17.8 11.0 5.5 43.8
Farthest from impact area 52 50.0* 17.3 7.7 11.5 1.9 26.9
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
* Difference significant at 0.05 level.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level.

The steps taken by faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations differed significantly in some cases. For example, faith-based organizations were much more likely than secular nonprofits to report that they have taken no steps since the storm to prepare for future emergencies45 percent versus 22 percent. In contrast, proportionately twice as many secular nonprofits (35 percent) have created emergency action plans than faith-based providers (18 percent), and a greater share of secular nonprofits (22 percent) reported that they have created collaborations and partnerships than faith-based organizations (13 percent), although the difference is not statistically significant. The different steps taken by faith-based and secular respondents to plan for future emergencies may reflect the types of services faith-based organizations, predominantly congregations, provided in response to the stormthat is, short-term, emergency relief services. These organizations may see their mission as helping during emergency situations, and they may have less interest in building the infrastructure critical to providing other, long-term human services.

Distance from the storms direct impact also appears to be a factor in the likelihood of planning for the next emergency. The farther from the hurricanes impact, the less likely FBCOs reported any emergency planning activities. For example, half the FBCOs in the most distant areas reported that they have taken no action since the hurricanes to prepare for future emergencies, whereas in the primary and secondary areas, only a third of the FBCOs have taken no action.

FBCO Perceptions of What Went Well

In general, FBCOs in the survey reported that their experiences in providing relief and recovery services were positive. When asked what went well, the most frequent response was we were able to help people in need, followed by we brought people together and worked as a team, and then we formed collaborations and shared information.

As Table 26 shows, faith-based and secular nonprofit organizations emphasized different aspects of their service delivery experiences when asked what worked well. The most common answer for faith-based organizations was their ability to help people in need (20 percent), while for secular nonprofits, it was forming collaborations and sharing information (23 percent). Faith-based groups tended to emphasize working together as a team (14 percent), providing volunteers (11 percent), and providing supplies (8 percent). Secular nonprofits cited their ability to help people (11 percent), provide counseling (10 percent), and connect people with services (9 percent). Faith-based organizations were twice as likely as secular nonprofits (10 percent versus 5 percent) to say that everything went well.

The distance from the impacted areas also significantly shaped FBCOs perceptions of what went well. In the primary impact areas, for example, the most common response referred to the collaborations formed and information shared. FBCOs in the primary impact areas named collaborations more than twice as often (19 percent) as those in the secondary (8 percent) or distant areas (7 percent). In contrast, FBCOs in the secondary areas were much more likely to cite their ability to provide counseling (14 percent) and housing assistance (10 percent) than FBCOs in either the primary or distant areas.

Table 26.
What Went Well in Providing Relief/Recovery Services
Characteristic N Percent of Organizations That Had the Following Successes:
Helped people in need Brought
people together/
worked as team
Collaborated & shared information Provided volunteers Provided counseling Everything went well Efficiency/ timeliness of service delivery/ well organized Provided supplies Provided housing Connected people with services Do not know/
no response/
nothing
Other
All respondents 221 16.3 12.2 11.8 10.0 8.1 7.7 6.3 5.4 5.0 4.5 3.6 9.0
                           
Faith-based organization** 132 19.7 14.4 4.5 10.6 6.8 9.8 4.5 7.6 6.1 1.5 3.8 10.6
Secular nonprofit** 89 11.2 9.0 22.5 9.0 10.1 4.5 9.0 2.2 3.4 9.0 3.4 6.7
                           
Louisiana 117 15.4 12.0 9.4 7.7 6.8 7.7 6.0 6.8 6.8 6.0 4.3 11.1
Mississippi 90 16.7 13.3 16.7 10.0 10.0 7.8 5.6 4.4 3.3 2.2 2.2 7.8
Houston, TX 14 21.4 7.1 0.0 28.6 7.1 7.1 14.3 0.0 0.0 7.1 7.1 0.0
                           
Primary impact area* 85 15.3 12.9 18.8 14.1 3.5 4.7 5.9 8.2 3.5 4.7 2.4 5.9
Adjacent to impact* 79 16.5 12.7 7.6 3.8 13.9 8.9 3.8 3.8 10.1 3.8 2.5 12.7
Farthest from impact* 57 17.5 10.5 7.0 12.3 7.0 10.5 10.5 3.5 0.0 5.3 7.0 8.8
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: The "N" reflects the number of answers given, not the number of respondents.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level. * Difference significant at 0.05 level.
Table 27.
What Did Not Go Well or Could Have Gone Better In Providing Relief/Recovery Services
Characteristic  N Percent of Organizations That Had the Following Problems:
Don't know/
no response/ nothing
Insufficient service delivery/ supplies Poor communication Poor coordination Insufficient preparation Not enough volunteers/
staff
Not enough funding Problems with FEMA Problems with government Problems with Red Cross Did not get reimbursed Other
All respondents 213 33.3 20.7 8.5 8.0 5.6 5.2 5.2 3.3 3.3 1.9 0.5 4.7
                           
Faith-based organization** 126 40.5 20.6 7.1 8.7 7.1 2.4 2.4 4.0 0.8 3.2 0.0 3.2
Secular Nonprofit** 87 23.0 20.7 10.3 6.9 3.4 9.2 9.2 2.3 6.9 0.0 1.1 6.9
                           
Louisiana 107 37.4 17.8 7.5 6.5 2.8 6.5 7.5 3.7 3.7 0.0 0.9 5.6
Mississippi 90 26.7 22.2 10.0 10.0 10.0 3.3 3.3 3.3 3.3 4.4 0.0 3.3
Houston, TX 16 43.8 31.3 6.3 6.3 0.0 6.3 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 0.0 6.3
                           
Primary impact area 80 33.8 17.5 10.0 11.3 3.8 6.3 5.0 3.8 3.8 1.3 0.0 3.8
Adjacent to impact area 78 28.2 21.8 7.7 9.0 9.0 3.8 3.8 1.3 5.1 2.6 1.3 6.4
Farthest from impact area 55 40.0 23.6 7.3 1.8 3.6 5.5 7.3 5.5 0.0 1.8 0.0 3.6
Source: Urban Institute 200708 Survey of FBCOs in Louisiana, Mississippi, and Houston.
Note: The "N" reflects the number of answers given, not the number of respondents.
** Difference significant at 0.01 level. * Difference significant at 0.05 level.

FBCO Perceptions of What Could Have Gone Better

Respondents had a much more difficult time answering what did not go well or could have gone better. One-third of respondents indicated they did not know or could think of nothing to report (Table 27). Faith-based organizations (40 percent) were more likely than secular nonprofits (23 percent) to express this opinion.

The most frequently mentioned challenge was insufficient supplies or other services. One in five FBCOs in the survey named this as something that could have been improved. Other common challenges were poor communication (named by 9 percent of the FBCOs) and poor coordination of services (cited by 8 percent).

Again, secular nonprofits and faith-based organizations had different perceptions of what could have been done better. For example, four times more secular nonprofits than faith-based groups (9 percent versus 2 percent) said there were not enough volunteers and not enough funding. A greater share of faith-based organizations than secular nonprofits indicated problems working with FEMA and the Red Cross, while secular nonprofits named government as a challenge for them. A larger share of faith-based organizations than secular nonprofits (7 percent versus 3 percent) indicated that they had insufficient preparation to respond to the aftermath of the hurricane.

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