Partners, Volume 15, Number 3, 2005

Spotlight on the District

ALABAMA
Bayou La Batre Recovers from Katrina

The flood waters have receded, the phone lines are working and all power has been restored: the city of Mobile, Ala., breathes a sigh of relief. Many realize how fortunate they are when they see the devastation only a few miles away. The small community of Bayou La Batre, just west of Mobile, was not so lucky.

With a population of about 3,500, the coastal city had emerged as a commercial seafood industry giant. According to the local Chamber of Commerce, its port accommodated over 300 major vessels that fished the Gulf waters from the Florida Keys to Mexico, reaping some of the best shrimp, oysters, crabs and finfish in the world. Bayou La Batre was commonly referred to as the “Seafood Capitol of Alabama,” and its economic contribution to the state was estimated at $90 to $100 million a year.

The powerful winds of Hurricane Katrina literarily tore this small community to shreds, shutting down an important source of food and revenue for the state. As you travel along the coastline, you see literally hundreds of fishing vessels either totally destroyed or tossed inland by flood waters. The storm also ravaged countless numbers of commercial buildings, commercial equipment and homes.


Photo by Marvin Nauman courtesy of FEMA

In recent years Bayou La Batre’s popularity as a site for vacation homes was on the rise, and private investors had plans to expand this community’s potential as a resort city. But now the city’s plans focus on little more than reestablishing basic services that will allow for eventual reconstruction.

According to the Governor’s office, damage from Hurricane Katrina totaled over $166 million just in Alabama. Along with Mobile County, nine other western Alabama counties have been designated as disaster areas eligible for individual and public assistance. Despite major financial loss, only two people died as a result of the hurricane, both in an automobile accident during the storm.

As of November 2005, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) reported 27,000 applications from evacuees who have come to Alabama from other states. The most significant need is money for basic living expenses. Outside of FEMA and the Red Cross, the Governor’s Emergency Relief Fund has raised $3.2 million. Other organizations are playing a major funding role as well, such as the United Way, trade groups and faith-based organizations, many of which collaborate with state and local governments.

Successful development—and redevelopment—always comes down to successful partnerships. Alabama Emergency Management Agency and the Governor’s Office of Faith-Based & Community Initiatives have been working jointly to address the needs of both hurricane victims and evacuees. And the Fed continues to be at the table. Volunteer organizations that provide disaster response are developing stronger ties with one another and with financial institutions. Local long-term recovery committees are also building strong collaborative relationships on the county level to work strategically with all partners in addressing needs.

This article was written by Michael Milner, regional community development director in the Atlanta Fed’s Birmingham Branch.

GEORGIA
Agencies Unite in Katrina Relief Efforts

Georgia has become the temporary home to tens of thousands of Hurricane Katrina evacuees. Earlier reports indicated that 25,000 to 50,000 people may need resettlement assistance for several months or longer. Several collaborative efforts in the Metro Atlanta area have been launched to address the immediate and short-term needs of those who fled to the state of Georgia.

United Way
Several days after the storm, United Way of Metro Atlanta convened 200 community leaders representing government, nonprofit, faith and business sectors. The result was the creation of “Neighbors Helping Neighbors: Uniting for Life after Katrina,” an organization to coordinate efforts in the Atlanta region and the state to respond to the long-term needs of families and individuals displaced by the hurricane.

The group crafted a 90-day response plan to address a range of evacuees’ needs: food, shelter, transportation, health, reunification or relocation, documentation and identification, benefits, school readiness and education, employment, transitional or permanent housing, child care and youth development.


Photo by Liz Roll courtesy of FEMA

The United Way projects the need for an incremental increase of $10 million over its initial $76.5 million campaign goal to implement these priority resettlement items and to support agencies on the front line working with those displaced by the hurricane. For more information, visit the website: www.unitedwayatlanta.org.

HomeAid Atlanta and the Atlanta Homebuilders Association
HomeAid Atlanta, an affiliate of the Greater Atlanta Home Builders Association, responded to hurricane Katrina by organizing three efforts to assist displaced individuals and families.

First, HomeAid Atlanta hosted an emergency drive to collect items for infants in response to requests from many local service providers who experienced a shortage of disposable diapers, baby wet wipes, infant formula and baby food. HomeAid also assembled “home starter kits” with essential household items for displaced families moving into permanent homes.

In addition HomeAid is partnering with the United Way to construct new “bridge” housing for the evacuees until they can make permanent living arrangements. Eventually the bridge housing will serve as transitional housing for homeless families.

The Home Builders Association has also committed to identify employment opportunities in Atlanta for Katrina evacuees with experience in the homebuilding industry. For more information visit: www.atlantahomebuilders.com.

This article was written by Sibyl Howell, regional community development manager at the Atlanta Fed.


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