Catholic Charities and federal government work together to serve communities affected by disasters

Catholic Charities USA (CCUSA), at the request of Cynthia Colbert, president and CEO of Catholic Charities Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston (CCAGH), convened a meeting between CCAGH and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives and Federal Emergency Management Agency Partners (FEMA) in order to discuss how faith-based organizations and the federal government can work together in service to communities affected by disasters.

Participants in the meeting included Colbert; Kevin Smith, director of DHS Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives; Zach Cahalan, strategic director for Disaster Operations, CCUSA; Kimberly Mazyck, senior manager of engagement and education outreach, CCUSA; and Ellen Ginty, board chair of CCAGH.

Colbert expressed appreciation for the robust collaboration and partnership between FEMA and the Catholic Charities network. “CCAGH appreciates the opportunity to work with FEMA, NVOAD [National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster] and CCUSA in aiding the recovery of hundreds of families impacted by Hurricane Harvey,” Colbert said. “It will take time for repairs and recovery, and our work continues. Long-term disaster case management is a necessary and beneficial service to help individuals and families get back on their feet.”

CCAGH jumped into action following Hurricane Harvey’s devastating impacts on people in Greater Houston and helped lead a whole-community response, prioritizing the needs of those who were poor and vulnerable.

Despite their best efforts toward full recovery, community volunteers could not meet all the needs, which far outpaced available resources, caused by the hurricane.

Recognizing that strong, community-based organizations such as CCAGH were ready and in place to do more if resources could be made available, FEMA entered into a Cooperative Agreement with NVOAD to provide disaster case management services to the hardest hit survivors. This agreement and resulting initiative, “Project Comeback: Texas,” enabled CCAGH to open more than 2,800 cases that helped more than 7,800 people access more than $20 million in resources and referrals to meet critical, outstanding Hurricane Harvey recovery needs.

Project Comeback is just one of many examples of what is possible when government and faith-based organizations work together to innovate and problem solve on behalf of those in need.

“Earlier this month we met with Cynthia Colbert to discuss challenges and best practices from Hurricane Harvey and apply them for a more effective partnership in the future,” Smith said. “FEMA is committed to maintaining a partnership with Catholic Charities to help people before, during and after a disaster.”

The Catholic Charities participants also met with officials at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Administration for Children and Families, the Administration for Community Living, the Veterans Administration, and the offices of U.S. Senators John Cornyn and Ted Cruz, and U.S. Representative Sylvia Garcia.

CCUSA looks forward to continuing to work closely with the DHS Center for Faith and Opportunity Initiatives to best support the needs of the Catholic Charities network.

Advocacy & Social Policy Initiatives

CCUSA's Advocacy and Social Policy team advocates for policies that uphold human dignity and promote integral human development. Informed by the experience of local Catholic Charities agencies, the team urges policy makers to encounter the needy and vulnerable in their communities and to create policies which assist and support them.

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