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United Methodist relief agency to help FEMA with case management

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File photo courtesy of the Department of Defense

Gulf Coast evacuees relax at a temporary shelter in San Antonio. FEMA has asked UMCOR to assist with evacuee case management.
Oct. 27, 2005

By Linda Beher*

NEW YORK (UMNS) — Eight weeks after Hurricane Katrina displaced more than a million Gulf Coast residents, United Methodist Committee on Relief officials said the agency will lead a consortium of providers in a two-year case management grant worth $66 million.

The agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency will benefit 300,000 people scattered by the winds throughout the 50 states.

Survivors often have a tough time knowing their rights and understanding the daunting application process, federal officials said. Using a review panel, UMCOR will select up to 12 other agencies with expertise in disaster response to help these vulnerable citizens become self-sustaining. FEMA will supervise the implementation of the grant.

In its lead role, UMCOR represents a broad-based coalition known as NVOAD — the National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster. NVOAD members are both secular and faith-based organizations. UMCOR plans to choose consortium members from NVOAD as well as from other sources.

UMCOR’s specialty in long-term disaster response is case management, which covers the whole spectrum of listening, documenting, connecting survivors with services, helping survivors make individual action plans, and leading all toward self-sufficiency and recovery.

The United Methodist agency’s role will be to coordinate, monitor and report on the work of 3,000 professional and volunteer case managers in the delivery of services to people who were living in Alabama, Louisiana, or Mississippi when Hurricane Katrina displaced them. A core group of paid workers will supervise teams of trained volunteers. All agencies to be considered as partners have proven experience in the case management field.

“The program will complement, not duplicate, ongoing government efforts,” said the Rev. Paul Dirdak, UMCOR’s chief executive. The grant is the largest ever received by UMCOR, he added. “FEMA turned to UMCOR because of our competence in this sector and their confidence that we can provide accountability.”

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The Rev. Paul Dirdak
The diaspora forced by Hurricane Katrina extends to all 50 states and Puerto Rico. Partners in the consortium will have broad geographical reach, established referral networks and high standards of care. Formal requests for proposals are being released this week, Dirdak said.

Every network member will have access to case files through a unified reporting system. For survivors, that’s good news. They will avoid the emotional turmoil of multiple intake interviews and be able to receive assistance quickly. Consortium members will be able to easily identify unmet needs and duplication of services. At the same time, clients will be assured of confidentiality, a primary component of empowerment.

“Case management is a concrete way to assure that disaster survivors who require long-term assistance will achieve self-sufficiency, strong families and cohesive communities,” Dirdak explained.

The usually unsung case manager has the potential to spell the difference between a chaotic response full of duplications — or worse, full of gaps — and fair, equitable treatment of survivors as they resume normal life, he said.

To accelerate the pace of outreach, the consortium will allocate small grants to grass-roots organizations aiding the evacuees.

Gifts from United Methodists and other private donors will help fund these grants so that communities will have capacity to continue case management beyond the two years envisioned by the proposal. UMCOR is also providing private disaster recovery resources to its own voluntary networks in the Gulf Coast disaster zone.

*Beher is the communications officer for the United Methodist Committee on Relief.

News media contact: Linda Bloom, New York, (646) 369-3759 or


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