Friday, June 08, 2007

The State of Katrina Recovery

This past weekend, KatrinaGrace, the Katrina Recovery relief organization Beth and I lead with Neil and Sandra Clabough at Grace Community Church, brought Mark Lewis, Director of the Evangelical Free Church of America's Crisis Response Team, and Mary Held, who coordinates follow-up for their Katrina Relief efforts, to Grace to update us on how things are going in New Orleans and what still needs to be done.

Since Katrina, KatrinaGrace has sent over 100 folks on 11 Teams to work with Trinity Church and the EFCA in the New Orleans area and we have 5 trips scheduled between now and the end of 2007. We interviewed Mark and Mary in all three services this past Sunday and then manned sign-up tables for this year's trips. Through Trinity Church in Covington, LA (on the North Shore of Lake Pontchartrain) and the EFCA, we work with Habitat for Humanity in Slidell, LA and are about to also begin working with Habitat for Humanity in New Orleans proper in association with Urban Impact Ministries.

Though we know from being down there that there's still a ton of work to be done (Mark Lewis estimates that recovery in the area will take 8-10 years), I had been looking for ways to keep up with the overall state of Katrina Recovery. I just found The Greater New Orleans Community Data Center, which seems to be doing a good job keeping up with at least some of the core recovery metrics. Just last month they released an updated Katrina Index which updates some of these details. Among their findings:

  • 70 Orleans Parish schools remain closed

  • 15 public libraries remain closed

  • 36% of area health care facilities are yet to open

  • On an up note, 92% of New Orleans hotels have opened.
I'm continuing to search for means to quantify the recovery in the New Orleans area. If you find good articles/sites that do this, please let me know. I know there will be some good analysis in the media as we approach the 2nd anniversary of the storm towards the end of the summer.

Just last night I finished The Great Deluge by Douglas Brinkley of Tulane University which I bought in New Orleans when I was down there. Written as a continuing narrative of the events of 27 Aug thru 3 Sept 2005, the book is a helpful collection of story after story of what was going on on the ground, and with private, non-profit, city, state, and federal government response (or the lack thereof).

It's so easy to be faddish when it comes to disaster recovery and it's also easy to lose focus when a situation is changing so very slowly. Mark Lewis helpfully challenged Beth and me to keep the long view in mind when it comes to aiding the New Orleans area.

There are so many ways to get involved with this effort and many faith-based initiatives as well. Beth and I have been thinking about what it would mean if the church in the US were to decide that we would make up the difference between what the various government agencies are doing and what actually needs to be done.

Mark Lewis and Mary Held both have the proper perspective that our job is to holistically serve folks in New Orleans, balancing gospel and practical relief effort concerns. It's fun to think about how the church could have such a positive spiritual influence in the area through serving the practical needs there and building redemptive relationships...

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