LOUISIANA: Diocesan efforts bring hope and help to New Orleans

April 6, 2008

When the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that federal funding for case management services will be extended through June 1, the Diocese of Louisiana rejoiced -- and earned some credit.


As The New Orleans Times-Picayune explains, "in late 2005 a partnership of 10 national agencies maintained staffs of case workers paid for by $66 million from international donors. But that money has run out; the network, called Katrina Aid Today, was set to go out of business Monday [March 31], with more than 4,000 Louisiana cases still open.

"For months, partner agencies, particularly the Episcopal Diocese of Louisiana, have been hunting for fresh money to keep paying case workers -- which the FEMA announcement at least partly addressed Friday."

The diocese puts it more modestly: "Thanks to a network of church leaders, politicians and concerned citizens making their voices heard in Washington, funding has been extended for eight weeks."

"This is a major accomplishment," Louisiana Bishop Charles Jenkins said of the funding extension. "It shows how much we can do when we work together. We have forged partnerships in New Orleans since Katrina with other churches and faith-based organizations and I think this shows that together we are stronger."

The collaborative effort gives hope that a permanent solution to the housing crisis caused by Katrina will be found. Nevertheless, says Nell Bolton, director of the diocese's Office of Disaster Response, the extension of FEMA funding is not a permanent solution to the housing crisis. "With the lack of affordable housing in New Orleans, it's difficult for folks moving out of trailers to find a place to live."

"We stand for the right of all people to return to their home city of New Orleans for a safe and sustainable life," said Jenkins.

-- The Rev. Lisa B. Hamilton is Episcopal Life Media correspondent for Provinces I and IV. She is based in Venice, Florida and Sandisfield, Massachusetts.

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