by Louisiana Family Recovery Corps
Guest Contributor

The Louisiana Family Recovery Corps is strongly encouraging local, state and federal leaders to focus on the realities of long-term human recovery as they plan and implement human service efforts around Hurricanes Ike and Gustav and continue efforts on the Katrina and Rita recovery.

"There are a myriad of programs and services available to citizens recently impacted by Ike and Gustav and citizens still recovering from Katrina and Rita. It is absolutely critical that nonprofit, government and foundation leaders in Louisiana and across the U.S. Gulf South keep in mind a few fundamental lessons learned from previous disasters as they relate to human recovery," said Raymond Jetson, chief executive officer of the Recovery Corps.

Through its efforts assisting more than 30,000 individual and family households affected by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and unfolding efforts assisting those impacted by Gustav and Ike, the Recovery Corps has released a series of "Realities of Recovery," or strong recommendations and lessons learned, to inform human service officials and planners in the government and nonprofit sectors.

REALITY ONE: Case management is most effective when accompanied by the tools citizens need to be successful in their recovery.

Case management, or recovery planning, services offered to impacted citizens should be accompanied by direct assistance, or financial support for critical necessities lost during disaster, such as appliances, basic furniture, medicine and housing assistance. Case management pairs an individual or family with a social service professional to assist them in planning their recovery. Most case management programs only offer this professional assistance and not direct financial aid. An Oakland, Calif.-based Berkeley Policy Associates study indicates that case management, accompanied by needed financial assistance, allows households to set not only recovery goals, but gives them the resources they need to meet goals and become self-sufficient post-disaster.

REALITY TWO: The need for services spans beyond those traditionally served by government programs.

Service systems and funding streams must be aligned with the demographics and needs of the disaster-impacted population. Impacted residents typically need services, such as one-time financial support, that fall outside of conventional service offerings and traditional eligibility criteria, such as a federal poverty level requirement. Services must be available in places that residents are most likely to access them and must be offered by organizations beyond government providers.

REALITY THREE: Housing repair and household re-establishment assistance are critical needs of impacted households.

While, damage to homes and personal property caused by Gustav and Ike is still being assessed, we know the number of damaged homes and property could reach into the hundreds of thousands in Louisiana. During Katrina and Rita, more than 200,000 homes were damaged or destroyed. According to the Recovery Corps May 2008 study Progress for Some, Hope and Hardships for Many, paying bills and maintaining a household are still critical barriers to recovery for Katrina- and Rita-impacted citizens.

REALITY FOUR: If programs are focused on outputs instead of outcomes, they will be inadequate and yield consequences for the future.

As nonprofit service providers, organizations should insist on outcome-driven programs, which ensure that citizens progress on a continuum of recovery and are meeting real benchmarks in their recovery. Programs merely outputting the number of citizens served with no description of results will be inadequate. Outcome-based technology platforms must accompany recovery programs to ensure positive results for Louisiana citizens. Any technology used to track citizen outcomes should include a holistic view of the issues that affect long-term recovery (i.e., household re-establishment, child care, employment, education, health, transportation).

REALITY FIVE: Help with managing the stress of recovery or feelings of depression are significant barriers to recovery.

Positive mental health and emotional well-being is at stake for many individuals and families as they seek to cope with the daily stress of managing the personal recovery of their homes and property. Previous research by the Recovery Corps indicates that recovery-related stress and depression are common across all households, regardless of income, geography or race. Children are especially vulnerable to the effects of disaster, so effective interventions will be required to alleviate that issue.

The Recovery Corps will launch several new programs for disaster-impacted individuals and families in the coming weeks. To get up-to-date information and announcements, please visit www.recoverycorps.org.

The Recovery Corps is a Baton Rouge-based nonprofit that coordinates humanitarian services for the state in the aftermath of disaster. Formed in the wake of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, the organization has worked with human service and nonprofit partners across Louisiana to help more than 30,000 households with recovery planning, housing, and mental health and emotional well-being needs.