Following the devastation of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in August and September, some Catholic organizations along the Gulf Coast are facing declining donations for their other charitable services, as well as catch-22’s because of earmarked funds, coming in strictly for hurricane relief.
This, according to a report in the Lafayette, Louisiana, Daily Advertiser, is leaving many already-homeless people without food, clothing, or a chance to get out of their own cycles of poverty.
Although there is a decent amount of money coming in, said Kimberly James, head of Lafayette’s Catholic Service Centers, which runs St. Joseph‘s shelter for Men, " it’s a mixed blessing. We need it as much as it hurts us."
"We're grateful”, she told the Advertiser, “for those designated donations, but we're asking for donations to support existing services."
Directly following the storms, the Lafayette Catholic Services bought and distributed $25 Wal-mart gift cards to the tune of 300 a month for needy and displaced families.
At the same time, James’ shelter, along with many others outlying the Gulf region, are filling up as FEMA and Red Cross shelters--set up following the hurricanes--now begin to close.
"It's a dynamic situation that changes day by day,” Eric Gammons, operations director for Lafayette Catholic Service Centers, told the Advertiser. “We just don't know what's going to happen tomorrow."
"People who never came in for assistance before are now coming in for help with their monthly utility bills," added James. But "the amount of unsolicited donations continues to decrease, affecting our ability to help."
Officials fear that although the local job market following the storms has increased, with construction, rebuilding, and debris-clearing jobs on the rise, they will not last.And when they disappear, charity organizations fear, a great many Gulf residents will simply find themselves back on the streets or in shelters again.