Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services After Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. Life Cycles and Sustainability


As seen in the FBCOs under study, the temporary shift to disaster response was often driven by the compelling circumstances of the storms, the expertise and initiative of their leadership, and the rush of funding and materials flowing to the region. However, as time passes, funding diminishes, and the needs of those served by these organizations before the storm come back into focus, many return to their original mission despite continuing needs related to the 2005 hurricanes.

Three of the FBCOs studied that did not have a disaster response mission have returned or are in the process of returning to their original functions and activities. Each of these FBCOs is likely to retain the internal capacity to respond to future disasters. Thus, Community Care Network maintains a strong relationship with the local church that hosted the disaster relief efforts, and its director is experienced in operating a shelter and in coordinating volunteers. Whether another disaster would generate the same level of volunteer and material donations is unknowable. Hope Haven, similarly, is now positioned to distribute monetary donations through its Helping Hands Fund and knows how to operate a housing facility. However, by the time of the site visit the organization was attempting to sell its facility because of skyrocketing housing insurance prices, its large debt resulting from its relief efforts, and funding sources that had dried up.

St. Lukes retains its large campus, solid funding, and congregant base, and it has updated a disaster relief plan for the church. The leadership sees a similar role in future disasters as it played in 2005, as a provider of shelter, materials, and spiritual support and counseling. It stocks up on essential items such as nonperishable food, water, and baby supplies to be prepared for the next event. But the church saw its role in 2005 as only immediate relief, terminated those services after four months, and sold the mobile unit to the Archdiocese. Partners in Prayer has not resumed its pre-storm mission; its director is staff to United Way, which is itself part of Lake Charles strong mayoral-led disaster response apparatus that has built expertise from its several hurricane experiences and from collaboration among a broad range of governmental and nongovernmental components. Several respondents credited the leadership of the mayor as being critical to the strength of the collaboration among faith-based, secular, and public organizations.

Those organizations whose missions are related to case management within a long-term recovery or unmet needs committee structure have continued to provide services as long as funding remained. GNODRP is coming to a crossroads because most funding for unmet needs ends in 2008 or 2009. Most of the funding for case management, which was used by the member long-term recovery structures within GNODRP, came from UMCOR (Katrina Aid Today funds), and those funds are virtually exhausted. Funding for housing rebuilding typically came from the Salvation Army and Red Cross, and that is nearly exhausted as well. Leaders in the organization are aware that recovery from Katrina is likely to be a 10- to 20-year effort, and they are concerned about developing new resources to sustain the momentum. The challenge of maintaining the attention of national policymakers and funders is increasing as other events overtake the 2005 hurricanes and interest wanes in the general public.

Many long-term recovery structures, like VFCC, are sufficiently established that although they will become dormant, they can easily be reconstituted when needed. As one affiliate noted, he could be neck deepwith VFCC tomorrow working on a relief effort. VFCCs office, warehouse, and network connections survive. The office is donated by a board member, the director frequently donates his own time, and the churches and personal relationships remain, so the organization is able to weather periods with no financing and reorganize when the need arises. VFCC is also part of the Emergency Operations Center Disaster Plan, and the Office of Emergency Preparedness director sits on the VFCC board.

Common Ground Health Clinic and the Community Initiatives Foundation have continuing missionsthe former to provide health care, and the latter to address the continuing needs of children and families whose precarious circumstances will require assistance with housing, mental health, employment, and a host of other issues that emerged as a result of the storm. The Clinic has undergone a maturation process in recognition of the need to professionalize and enhance the quality of care. Collaborations remain in place and current funding is expected until at least 2010. Community Initiatives Foundation maintained a clear understanding of mission but recognized that it and collaborators were working in uncharted territory and addressing a level of need that no one had experienced before. The work of the foundation has adapted as needs have changed, moving from facilitating various services for the children in the shelter and then in the trailer park to addressing the range of other services required to stabilize the families and resettle them in new housing.

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