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Katrina Aftermath Highlights Community Engagement

1 September 2010 at 12:19 pm
Lina Caneva
A Not for Profit report finds an unexpected bright spot in its investigation in to rebuilding efforts and problems after Hurricane Katrina in the US - a blossoming of community engagement.

Lina Caneva | 1 September 2010 at 12:19 pm


Katrina Aftermath Highlights Community Engagement
1 September 2010 at 12:19 pm

On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina in the US, the Not for Profit research Institute of Southern Studies has released a new report which looks at what has changed and what hasn't changed, since the deadly storm took over 1,800 lives and devastated the Gulf Coast including a blossoming of community engagement.


Volunteers with the Second Harvest Food Bank provide support in the wake of hurricane Katrina  (Flickr photo USDAgov via Creative Commons)

The report called Learning from Katrina: Lessons from Five years of Recovery and Renewal in the Gulf Coast, finds that many of the problems exposed in the botched federal response to the storm, from breakdowns in disaster planning to a misguided and mismanaged recovery, have yet to be addressed in Washington.

What's more, the report says these key flaws in federal policy will stall Gulf Coast rebuilding and put lives at risk in future disasters unless the President and Congress take action soon.

Among the critical issues addressed in the study:

  • Poor disaster planning and response put thousands of Gulf residents in harm's way before, during and after Katrina. 
  • Waste, fraud and abuse by private contractors hurt Katrina relief and recovery efforts and cost taxpayers billions of dollars. 
  • While most Gulf communities have turned the corner, the recovery remains fragile and uneven. Problems with affordable housing, schools and health care access are still big obstacles, and have been exacerbated by Hurricanes Gustav and Ike and the BP oil disaster.

But the report also finds a bright spot from the last five years: a blossoming of community action, local leadership and civic engagement. 

Chris Kromm, the Institute's Executive Director and co-author of the report with Sue Sturgis says this rising spirit of activism and advocacy has not only helped thousands of Gulf residents participate in the recovery, but it's also helped hold the government accountable and mobilized national support for Gulf renewal.

Kromm says the heroic response of Not for Profit organizations, faith-based groups, individual volunteers and other elements of civil society in the aftermath of the storms has been well-documented.

However he says less discussed but equally important has been the critical role of community leadership and advocacy in shaping and improving the long-term recovery of the Gulf Coast. 

He says just as volunteers and groups filled crucial gaps in the relief and response effort, a vibrant network of Gulf Coast leaders and allies has played a decisive role in ensuring a faster, fuller and fairer recovery across the Gulf South region.

The report says the work of Gulf Coast community leaders and advocates has made the Katrina and Rita recovery more successful, accountable and equitable in several ways:
  • Local leaders and advocates galvanized people, neighborhoods and communities across the Gulf Coast, providing a voice and vehicle for local residents to participate in shaping how their communities would recover and rebuild.
  • Community leaders heightened accountability and the responsiveness of elected officials, government agencies and other decision-makers to the needs of Gulf residents, promoting recovery policies that were more inclusive, equitable and environmentally sustainable.
  • Community leaders mobilized national support for Gulf Coast renewal, reminding the country of its obligation to Gulf rebuilding and channeling volunteers and resources to where they were most needed for long-term recovery.

The full report can be downloaded at

Lina Caneva  |  Editor  |  @ProBonoNews

Lina Caneva has been a journalist for more than 35 years. She was the editor of Pro Bono Australia News from when it was founded in 2000 until 2018.

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One comment

  • Paul Harris says:

    I returned to New Orleans this week as I was a tourist trapped in the Superdome during Katrina. It’s important to realize that many myths were perpetuated in the media about this disaster. These include the following:

    About 1/2 of NOLA is actually above sea level while there are many more vulnerable cities in the U.S. that are below sea level and “protected” by vulnerable levees. NOLA was founded in 1718. How long has your city been around?

    Since someone will probably bring up the flooded busses as well so I’ll address that. Of those 100 flooded buses only about 1/2 were operable. Assuming then that those were used it would have made a small dent, relocating about 5,000 of 50,000 people. And who was going to drive those? The drivers had almost all evacuated with their own families.

    And most are still unaware the Airport, Amtrak, and Greyhound all shut down a day before the mandatory evacuation. Many of us could not get out in time. Still, evacuation experts rate the 85-90% evacuation rate as one of the highest ever.

    The supposed rapes and murders at the Superdome and the shooting of helicopters outside the Dome. Authorities could not substantiate any, but it sure can demonize a City when the media perpetuates these rumors.

    And finally, yes Katrina did obliterate many communities along the MS Gulf Coast, but for New Orleans it was the failed Army Corps of Engineers’ levees that caused most of the death and destruction in the City.

    Paul Harris
    Author, “Diary From the Dome, Reflections on Fear and Privilege During Katrina”

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