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The Role of Faith-Based and Community Organizations in Post-Hurricane Human Services Relief Efforts

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Document date: December 01, 2008
Released online: January 22, 2009

The text below is an excerpt from the complete document. Read the full report in PDF format.


The events surrounding hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 produced one of the largest disaster responses by nongovernmental, charitable organizations, including both faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs). This report is based on a telephone survey of 202 FBCOs that provided disaster-related human services and in-depth, field-based case studies of eight organizational responses after the hurricanes. The survey findings address what types of services were provided, to whom, and the collaborations used by FBCOs to deliver services. The case studies explore what motivated the response in 2005 and suggest how such efforts might connect with the larger disaster response and human service delivery systems to provide needed services in future disasters (For more information, contact Principal Investigators Carol J. De Vita and Fredrica D. Kramer.).


By almost any measure—geographic reach of the storm, population displaced, destruction of property and infrastructure, 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. Because the storm and the breaking of the levees devastated a major population center and totally obliterated large swaths of coastal areas, their effects were extraordinary. 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 umbrella 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.

For many faith-based and community organizations (FBCOs), the outpouring of services and generosity after the hurricanes was consistent with their missions and traditions of helping people in need. Yet, there have been few systematic studies on how these organizations function during emergency situations, what they do, who they serve, and with whom they collaborate.

(End of excerpt. The entire report is available in PDF format.)

The Role of Faith-based and Community Organizations in Providing Relief and Recovery Services after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita (Brief)

Topics/Tags: | Governing | Nonprofits

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