(And who is helping them?)
There was a story this week in a local community paper about a social club of ex-Louisiana residents called the "Lost Cajuns". A woman who moved to East Tennessee from Louisiana in the 90's started the club back then, and it has grown to nearly 500 members. In the aftermath of Katrina, the club helped evacuees who ended up in East Tennessee, and "adopted" the town of Grand Isle in Louisiana, providing supplies and sending members down to help with the relief efforts.
This got me to thinking about all of the charities, community groups, church groups, civic organizations, activists, etc. around the country doing what they can during the past year to help the victims of Katrina. The Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch's One Year After report released yesterday has profiles of some of the groups involved in these efforts (see "Community Voices") and a directory of community organizations working to save the Gulf Coast.
While it may appear that the federal government's failed response has left the people of the Gulf Coast on their own, the reality is that there are still people all over America pulling together to help.
In the process of looking for more stories about people helping people from around the country (there are thousands and too many to summarize), I ran across another report from earlier in the year, The Continuing Storm by the Appleseed Foundation. This report focuses on the 700,000 evacuees still residing in cities around the South, including Atlanta, Baton Rouge, Birmingham, Houston and San Antonio. One of the report's findings:
Local entities (nonprofit and local government agencies) were far more flexible and responsive than the federal government or national organizations. Overall, host cities did not back down from the challenge of sheltering evacuees. Their best instincts took over, and the cities focused substantial efforts on helping the evacuees. Unlike the federal government and several national organizations, many local non-profit organizations and state and local agencies were quick to respond and understood what was needed to manage the disaster. These local organizations did not wait for confirmed commitments of federal funding before responding to the needs of the evacuees. In fact, many agencies and organizations are still waiting for federal reimbursements. The federal response was often constrained by cumbersome or ill-suited eligibility and application requirements. In many instances, federal staff and national organizations did not seem to have the flexibility, training, and resources to meet demands on the ground.
As a companion to the Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch's One Year After report on the situation in New Orleans and the Gulf, the "Continuing Storm" report is an eye-opening look at the impact on evacuees and the cities that host them.