|Rebuilt lives are legacy of Katrina Aid Today|
E. Dwight Franklin takes a breather while working at
his parents' home in New Orleans. Katrina Aid Today has helped more
than 73,000 families in the years since Hurricane Katrina struck the
Gulf Coast on Aug. 29, 2005.
A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
A UMNS Report
By Linda Bloom*
Aug. 29, 2008
As she assisted survivors of Hurricane Katrina, Tamera Fontenot found
herself not just providing resources but helping to rebuild lives.
The deadly 2005 hurricane devastated the U.S. Gulf Coast and put into
motion massive relocations from familiar surroundings and support
systems that created a diverse range of needs, according to Fontenot,
who served as both a case manager and coordinator of Katrina Aid Today
for Catholic Charities USA.
UMCOR representative Catherine Earl teaches computer skills
to consortium case managers with Katrina Aid Today in 2006 in Biloxi,
A UMNS photo by Mark Wolfe.
"It’s rebuilding whole lives, in whole new ways," she said.
Catholic Charities was one of nine partners in Katrina Aid Today, a
consortium of social service organizations that provided
disaster-related case management services to large numbers of Katrina
survivors. The initiative was managed by the United Methodist Committee
The consortium received a $66 million grant, which consisted of
international donations through the Federal Emergency Management Agency
and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
Katrina Aid Today concluded its work at the end of March after two and a
half years of operation. Building on that program’s success, FEMA is
implementing a two-phase disaster case management plan in Mississippi
through March 2009. The agency has awarded more than $25.4 million to
the Mississippi Commission for Volunteer Service to assist case managers
on the coast. The Mississippi Case Management Consortium is
administering the grant, according to Michele Baker, a spokesperson for
“Nothing like it had ever been attempted and possibly nothing like it could ever happen again.”The Rev. Tom
Hazelwood, who oversees national disaster response for UMCOR, believes
Katrina Aid Today was successful because it was a collaboration among
voluntary organizations that "had a more direct access to clients than
the government does."
–The Rev. Ken Massey
The statistics tell the story: 73,346 households, representing 193,633
individuals and families, were assisted through the partners of Katrina
Aid Today. Case managers were able to leverage more than $136 million
for the recovery effort.
At one point, Katrina Aid Today partners had 138 offices in 34 states.
Later, the focus shifted to 18 states in the most vulnerable areas.
Consistency was 'positive'
Catholic Charities served about 17,000 households through Katrina Aid
Today. "We had offices from Oakland to New Jersey," Fontenot said. "The
level of standardization and consistency across organizations, across
communities, was different for us and a real positive thing."
Fontenot has worked in social services for 25 years, but Katrina was her
first experience with a natural disaster. Despite the formal end to
Katrina Aid Today, she expects that "folks will continue to come to our
doors to seek assistance," adding that they are still working with
hundreds of survivors who now live in Houston.
Case workers Hien Nguyen and Bao H. Lee talk to shrimp
fisherman Hung Van Lai in Biloxi. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
Hazelwood noted that many of the partners had access to their own
private funds, which offered some flexibility because case managers did
not have to rely solely on government relief.
UMCOR, for example, contributed $5 million to create Katrina Aid Today’s
Local Consortium Member program, with 16 partners in 12 states,
assisted by 62 paid case managers and 84 volunteer case managers.
Over nearly two years, the local consortium members:
- Served 3,988 households impacted by Katrina, 88 percent of which were African-American families;
- Developed disaster recovery plans for 89 percent of the
case-managed clients, with primary needs met in a majority of the cases;
- Coordinated with Katrina Aid Today and drew upon community
and national resources, providing an estimated $11.4 million in
Jim Cox, who served as director of Katrina Aid Today, called it a "true
public/private financial partnership" and noted that more than $130
million was accessed for families through the organization’s case
"The program empowered local organizations to respond to the disaster,"
he said. "There is more success when local communities work together for
Cox found a direct relationship between the high percentage of poor and
vulnerable populations affected by Katrina and the length of time needed
for recovery. "However, there were more challenges in how far and wide
persons were displaced. Displaced populations ended up in almost every
state," he said.
Katrina Aid Today has helped more than 73,000 households rebuild their lives.
A UMNS photo by Susan J. Meister, UMCOR.
Fontenot acknowledged that many of the displaced clients served by
Catholic Charities "wanted to go home some day. The fact is, for a lot
of them, that won’t be a reality."
Lutheran Disaster Response provided assistance through Katrina Aid Today
in 12 states and learned that "the needs of clients in the
Katrina-affected areas in the Gulf were very different from the needs of
clients in Denver, Colorado, and Las Vegas, Nevada," according to the
Rev. Ken Massey, director.
Massey said his agency was "immensely proud" to be part of this "unique and historic" project.
"Nothing like it had ever been attempted and possibly nothing like it
could ever happen again," Massey said. "This program served the needs of
countless individuals and families in ways that it immeasurably helped
in its recovery."
He lauded the leadership provided by UMCOR. "They knew they had the
talent, they knew they had the capacity and they knew they had the
experience. They succeeded fantastically," he said.
Katrina Aid Today was able to both expand the capabilities of
traditional groups like Lutheran Disaster Response and bring in other
organizations normally not involved in such work, according to Mandi
Janis of UMCOR, who oversaw monitoring and evaluation of the consortium.
The National Disability Rights Network, for instance, traditionally is
involved with legal advocacy but started hearing from disabled Katrina
survivors who were receiving poor treatment in shelters. "They started
getting involved in one-on-one advocacy of these clients," Janis said.
"It gave them a new skills set."
New Orleans’ 9th Ward was devastated by the deadly storm. A UMNS file photo by Mike DuBose.
Having such groups at the table also helped remind the consortium of all
populations affected by Katrina. "It was of great value to have their
partnership," she said.
Boat People SOS, which assists Vietnamese refugees and immigrants, also
was able to expand its capabilities through membership in Katrina Aid
Today. "They never had offices on the Gulf Coast until we enabled them
to do that," Janis said.
A final evaluation of the program, prepared by the Policy & Research
Group in New Orleans, found that case managers were most helpful in
connecting clients to resources and material support and guiding them
through the federal bureaucracy. But emotional support was important,
too. "Clients report in both client satisfaction surveys and the focus
groups that emotional support was helpful and fortifying," the
More than 2,100 individuals were trained in post-disaster case
management through the Katrina Aid Today network and could be mobilized
for future disasters.
On an agency level, the standardized protocols and resources, along with
sub-grant funding, helped build the capacity of the nine consortium
members. The Coordinated Assistance Network, a Web-based application,
helped link case managers around the United States and offered
performance information to monitoring agencies.
The Rev. Tom Hazelwood
On a local level, the program brought together some groups which had not
collaborated in the past. "This connection will improve the referral
network in these communities and is a positive step in preparing to
respond to the next local or national disaster," the evaluation noted.
Lessons learned through experiences with Katrina Aid Today have resulted
in the development of some common case management standards and a
common language among the organizations, according to Hazelwood. "We
have certainly gotten better at working with the client," he said.
"We’ve eliminated a lot of stuff that wasn’t necessary."
Other partners in Katrina Aid Today were the Salvation Army, Episcopal
Relief and Development, Volunteers of America, Society of St. Vincent de
Paul and Odyssey House of Louisiana.
*Bloom is a United Methodist News Service news writer based in New York.
News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or email@example.com.
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