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This research brief examines the relief and recovery services provided by faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs) in the Gulf Coast region after hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005. The study included a telephone survey of 202 FBCOs that provided services and in-depth case studies of eight organizations. The brief explores how FBCOs functioned during this time-i.e., what they did, who they served, and with whom they collaborated-and offers lessons learned for planning for future disasters. The brief summarizes the findings from the full report "The Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Post-Hurricane Human Service Relief Efforts," available
By almost any measure—geographic reach of the storm, population
displaced, destruction of property, costs of disaster relief, and
the prospective costs of rebuilding—the effects of hurricanes
Katrina and Rita in 2005 represent the largest single natural disaster
on U.S. soil in the past 100 years. The storms and the breaking
of the levees devastated a major population center and totally
obliterated large swaths of coastal areas. By one account, more
than 100,000 square miles of land were affected—roughly the size
of Great Britain—and about 160,000 homes and apartments were
destroyed or suffered major damage. The Federal Emergency
Management Agency (FEMA) estimated damage at $37.1 billion—
or four times higher than the costs associated with the World
Trade Center attack in 2001.
The events surrounding the storms also produced one of the largest
disaster response efforts by nongovernmental, charitable organizations.
These included faith-based and secular groups, religious
congregations both locally based and from other states, national
organizations with substantial experience in human services delivery,
and groups with specific disaster response expertise. By some
accounts, the response of charitable groups was regarded as more
effective than that of federal, state, or local governmental agencies.
There have been few systematic studies of how faith-based and
community organizations (FBCOs) function during emergency
situations—what they do, whom they serve, and with whom they
collaborate. To fill this gap, 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,
to obtain detailed information on the relief efforts provided by FBCOs in the 2005 hurricanes, and suggest
how these groups might help in future disasters. 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 information 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 such 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 service providers.
The case studies used field-based semi-structured interviews with 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.
(End of excerpt. The entire brief is available in PDF format.)
The Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Post-Hurricane Human Services Relief Efforts (Full Report)
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