As we follow current developments in Texas and Louisiana we are also collecting information about Harvey’s effect on the local economy, and what people need to recuperate their lives, homes, and jobs. In our experience with hurricanes in Louisiana, Haiti, and Jamaica different sectors tend to recuperate at different tempos depending on their relative strengths. The key issues include the capacity of the institutions, access to capital and human resources, and the way the economy is structured.
A very important issue is what happens to people at different levels of the society. In most cases poor folk become poorer and are often expelled from the community altogether because their homes are uninsured, they have no savings or items of value, and their business are not profitable enough to be resilient to shocks. Also, they often have skills that are not in high demand right after a disaster. Even those who do manage to remain after a disaster find themselves displaced out of their neighborhoods by the gentrification that often accompanies the inflow of aid and the recovery workers that come in the wake of disasters, and the waves of speculators who follow them. Their departure generally represents a loss for the community because they are usually the cultural workers,- the musicians, cooks, artists, and the first generation of immigrants whose dynamism and creativity have always contributed to the cultural strength and social uniqueness of the community. The history of American artistic, scientific and business leadership is filled by these vulnerable stakeholders.
After the rescue and relief that must dominate disaster response, the recovery process begins. IN our experience the recovery process must begin well before the rescue and relief phase is over. This is because logistical and demographic information, inventories, human and other resources need to be gathered and and communication with local organizations and agencies need to be established so that the most effective strategies can be prepared. Planning, communication and responsiveness are as important to recovery as resources.
As they coexist on the ground during the transition from relief to recovery, the large, well resourced public and private rescue and relief programs tend to dominate the smaller recovery agencies. It is incumbent on recovery organizations, large and small, to find ways to work within the local governance system to contribute meaningfully to local recovery strategies. TCI’s operational niche is the neighborhood and the small farm, in particular the local civic and community development groups that are usually overlooked in the larger, well resourced recovery strategies. Though TCI’s policy is to work within state and county programs, our local everyday partners are the local schools, churches, community organizations, clubs, farmers’ markets, business associations, food co-ops, and CSA’s.
Our first step is to gather information – first from a distance during the relief phase, and then with field teams when we can physically visit and talk with people and find the best ways to connect with local partners. Together we identify ways that TCI can best promote or support local initiatives and address local needs, either by providing information or by sending people, material, or funding or by helping to connect people to resources. It is important to move smoothly from relief to recovery and to make supportive connections with all the stakeholders.
For details and updates please check the blogposts regularly, and don’t hesitate to communicate with us. No donation is too small to help. All our management is volunteer. All donations are tax deductible and spent 100% on program costs.