Saturday, October 01, 2005

Private aid in Gulf Hurricane Relief

In Mississippi people have found a great difference in the major groups giving aid. The Salvation Army was there quickly. And their people knew what they were doing. The Wall Street Journal reports on page 1 Thursday
Then city officials and residents counted their blessings, thanking the dozens of volunteers who had arrived here after the storm and the donors who had sent money and supplies. People in the crowd saved their biggest applause for the Salvation Army. "They were the only ones here in the beginning," Eula Crowell, 57 years old, said after the meeting. She lost her house to the massive storm surge that inundated East Biloxi, where many of the city's poorest people live. For the past month, she has relied on the Salvation Army for water, hot meals, groceries and other basic goods. The group also gave her $50.
But the Red Cross received few accolades:
The American Red Cross was mentioned at the meeting too, but in a different way. "We want to know where the money is," Ms. Crowell said when she cornered a Red Cross official who attended the gathering. "All these people across America are giving money over the TV. I would tell them to put it back in their pocket." Across the hurricane disaster zone, stretching from Alabama to Texas, an unexpected and unintended rivalry has developed between the two nonprofit organizations most closely associated with the aftermath of calamity. Here in some of the poorest parts of Mississippi and much of the Gulf Coast, the Salvation Army is drawing praise for its swift arrival in the most distressed areas and clearly winning the hearts of desperate residents. To some people here, the Red Cross, under growing criticism for letting bureaucratic hurdles slow down aid in the disaster area, suffers by comparison.
The difference:
The Salvation Army is helped by its military-style structure, which is designed for rapid mobilization and which puts a premium on training people in advance to deal with disasters. It can draw on more than 65,000 employees in the U.S., nearly double the paid staff of the Red Cross. The Salvation Army's daily work in permanent shelters with the homeless and poor and with people trying to put their lives back together after an apartment fire or years of alcohol and drug abuse helps too. The organization's focus on alleviating human suffering in the name of Jesus Christ resonates in this section of the Bible Belt.
But with its money the Red Cross is doing a lot:
This past weekend, the organization housed 120,000 people in nearly 500 shelters across the country, split about evenly between people who evacuated for Katrina and Rita. The Red Cross is housing another 300,000 in hotels and has given 530,000 families some form of financial assistance.
While the Red Cross raises lots of money it seems to have an entitlement mind set, being "the" emergency relief provider of the establishment. They bring lots of money and hire people for the short term. But those people are green. While the quiet Salvation Army does more with less money. The WSJ link is an email link and should work until Thursday

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