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


To obtain detailed data on FBCOs contributions to relief efforts following hurricanes Katrina and Rita and learn how these groups might help in future disasters, the Urban Institute conducted a two-year study for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The study included a telephone survey of 202 FBCOs that provided hurricane-related human services in the Gulf Coast region and in-depth, field-based case studies of eight organizations in Louisiana and Mississippi that provided such services.

The telephone survey offers quantitative data on the types of FBCOs that participated in relief and recovery efforts, the services provided, individuals served, and the monetary and human resources and networks and collaborations used to provide relief and recovery services. Information was collected between November 2007 and February 2008 from a stratified random sample of FBCOs in the Gulf Coast region. Of the 202 respondents, 120 self-identified as faith-based organizations and 82 as secular nonprofits. Most of those who identified as faith-based were religious congregations, though a small number (14) were professional human services providers.

The case studies used in-depth, field-based interviews with the leaders of the study organizations and others with whom they interacted or who may have influenced the assistance provided. Site visits were conducted between May and July 2008. The purpose of the case studies was to understand how eight organizations in different communities and with different purposes before the storms responded to the disaster. The case studies explored what motivated these organizations to respond as they did, how they related to the larger web of disaster responders, and whether the efforts of these generally smaller or nontraditional responders will be sustainable over time or replicable in future disasters. Because the cases selected involved relationships among many organizations, the studies illustrate a complex network of actors, including public and private agencies, and generally a melding of faith-based and secular organizations.

The study addresses five broad research questions: (1) what are the characteristics of FBCOs that provided disaster-related human services; (2) what services were provided, and to whom; (3) what resources (monetary, material, and human) were used to deliver services; (4) what networks facilitated the ability of FBCOs to deliver services; and (5) what lessons can be learned from these relief efforts?

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