Strategy: Our Grantmaking Priorities
The Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund benefits individuals and families evacuated to Baton Rouge from the hurricane impacted areas in Greater New Orleans, who are now unable to return for what may be an extended period. Early official estimates suggest that as many as 500,000 individuals may be required to remain in our area for up to six months, and they will face numerous challenges related to housing, food, education, healthcare and basic survival necessities. This fund supports those entities and programs in our area that endeavor to meet these critical needs, as well as address the impact this influx of residents will have on our community.
The Hurricane Katrina New Orleans Recovery Fund is focused on the rebuilding of infrastructure to provide basic human services to residents of these devastated areas. As the Greater New Orleans Foundation has now established their Rebuild New Orleans fund, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has closed this fund to new donations and is working to establish a contractual relationship with GNOF to assist in the distribution of donations already collected. Grants from this fund will focus on attempting to provide resources to programs and efforts that positively impact the quality of life of the area's residents, and contribute to the overall rebuilding of critical service delivery mechanisms in the Greater New Orleans area.
Shortly after the storm, the Foundation realized that establishing a clear direction and plan of action would be paramount to the success and consistency of our efforts to help displaced residents. Administering grants from the Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund is a responsibility that the Foundation has taken seriously. This plan has allowed us to provide relief to evacuees in an effective, conscientious manner. The Foundation is continually reevaluating shifting community needs, and adjusting our strategy to confront those needs, especially concerning the transition from shelters to temporary and then permanent housing. Ensuring that basic care and essential services are readily available to the massive number of displaced people in the greater Baton Rouge area is the Foundation's main concern.
The Hurricane Katrina Displaced Residents Fund will support organizations that are providing critical human services to the eight parish region served by the Foundation. For reasons of analysis and assessment of our grantmaking impact, we have divided the region into four districts: East Baton Rouge Parish; Ascension, Iberville and Livingston Parishes; West Baton Rouge and Pointe Coupee; and East and West Feliciana.
The Foundation understands that its performance is linked with its capacity to build relationships, coordinate effectively, and conduct thorough screening processes. In order to meet immediate operational needs, the Foundation may have to find and place personnel, paid or volunteer, to fill gaps in staffing necessary to link to organizations providing the immediate services to these devastated communities of people. Typically, this fund will fill gaps in services not available through the federal and state government, local municipalities, the Red Cross or other major public charities.
Structure of Response:
The Foundation has divided the types of organizations it will fund by identifying the needs of the displaced community by priority. Ensuring that basic human needs are met is the first priority in consideration for funding. The Foundation classifies basic human needs into two sub-categories consisting of food, shelter and security; and healthcare. Further, healthcare is split into physical and mental health. By focusing on Basic Human Needs first, the Foundation is promoting stability and well-being, qualities that are essential to the relief and recovery of displaced residents. Education is the Foundation's second priority area in this response. Returning children to schools smoothly is paramount to their future success, both in and out of the classroom. Through cooperation with the Chamber of Greater Baton Rouge, the Foundation is emphasizing Employment and Opportunity as its final focus for this fund.
The Grantmaking Programs Department of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation has assembled teams of professional and volunteer evaluators who are assigned to perform regular assessments of the work of public charities and report the current state of shelters for displaced persons. Teams stay informed about shifts in activities, changes in mood, and variations in services within their assigned district as the facilities evolve. With the significant help of the International Rescue Committee (IRC), grantmaking teams will recommend organizations for funding to the Grant Proposal Screening Committee, a group that includes several members from the Hurricane Katrina Task Force. The Screening Committee will challenge the recommendations of the grantmaking teams, where they can identify weaknesses, and forward exemplary proposals to the Executive Committee of the Baton Rouge Area Foundation for consideration.
The Screening Committee's duties include presenting proposals to the Executive Committee and validating the levels of funding recommended. The Executive Committee reviews the recommendations and screening process, and approves grants to qualified programs. Once the Executive Committee has acted, checks are issued to the designated organizations; then, evaluation teams can monitor and chronicle the impact of the grants. In the interest of maximizing the already stretched resources of public charities involved in disaster relief, the teams will provide summary sheets and the other necessary information to the Screening Committee, rather than the usual grant request prepared by the charity. This allows organizations to continue providing services instead of devoting precious time to writing grant requests.
By moving according to this prioritized response, the Foundation has maintained quality and stability during this urgent time. Our grants have helped sustain many of the shelters and programs providing immediate relief for displaced residents in our area. After a full month, the Foundation is beginning to address its longer-term priorities:
Housing: Recognizing the need for a long-term housing strategy, Plan Baton Rouge, a parish resource for best-practices in planning and design, convened a meeting to discuss the plans for developing more permanent housing solutions. Forty-five people attended the meeting, including representatives from the Governor's Office, City-Parish Government, FEMA, HUD, Congressman Richard Baker's office, and Senator Mary Landrieu's office. Non-profit housing developers, area architects and lenders also attended.
With nearly 350,000 homes destroyed in the Gulf region by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, many displaced residents are now living in shelters, have no place to return to, and are having difficulty locating affordable housing options. This group is investigating the possibilities of temporary and permanent housing, including identifying adjudicated properties, and integrating new, affordable housing into existing neighborhoods. Additionally, the group is moving to ensure that displaced residents have access to informed choices and don't fall victim to predatory lending practices as they exit shelters and seek more permanent housing.
Aware that re-engaging displaced children in the learning process is crucial to their future success, the Foundation is implementing an Education plan that brings the Baton Rouge and New Orleans communities together by promoting stability and excellence. Potential projects include Neighborhood Centers that feature social services, child care, Ready to Go programs, and a learning center; and educational charters and charter schools that could move back to New Orleans, intact, at the appropriate time. The Ready to Go program establishes relationships with children and their families at shelters and prepares them for re-entering school. The International Rescue Committee (www.theirc.org) directed the development of this model with the help of Sister Judith Brun, Director of Educational Programs for Displaced Children.
Shortly after the storm, the Baton Rouge Area Foundation consulted with the Oklahoma City Community Foundation and The New York Community Trust and determined that mental health must be a long-term priority. Calling on their own disaster experiences, these foundations warned of the risks of underestimating the impact that recent events would have both on evacuees and local residents. The Foundation is working with Capital Area Human Services and other mental health professionals to prevent a local mental health crisis. Currently, we are seeking to identify a national team of experts to assist in this effort.