Sunday, September 11, 2005

Sometimes, bureaucracy works.

We've all read and heard much in the past week about the failures of bureaucracy in the face, and aftemath, of Katrina. So it's good to know about one agency, the Louisiana Insurance Department, that is performing admirably. A few days ago, the New York Times reported on Commissioner Robetrt Wooley's convocation of a meeting in Atlanta with representatives of insurance companies that covered properties affected by the storm. Now I've heard from a friend who has had extensive dealings with the Department over the years, and who is helping to coordinate a partnership with Department personnel to provide direct relief for displaced hurricane victims. Here's the story, in her own words:

We're launching a Katrina relief partnership with host families in Baton Rouge and outer-New Orleans and surrounding parishes who have taken-in displaced families ... working directly with 270 members of the Louisiana Insurance Department to provide customized parcels of needed personal hygiene items, towels, sheets, toilet paper to help host families stretch their household budgets for the duration. Our ... donors will send these goods at intervals directly to the homes of host families who sign up. Host families are not in line for any help at all from the major relief agencies, and the many truckloads of clothing and household furnishings that arrive daily exceed the capacity of local people to unload, warehouse, and redistribute. Basic comforts and necessities such as toilet paper and shampoo, however, are a manageable and appreciated support that self-depletes, so recurring gifts are appropriate, allowing supportive relationships to grow between donor and host that could extend to other exchanges of help. ... Meantime, Commissioner Robert Wooley has invited me to come to Baton Rouge to help his department coordinate their own internal relief efforts. Everyone wants to help; they just need someone to organize their effort. His staff already has identified 50+ of their colleagues who lost family, or property, or are housing displaced elders from nursing homes and hospices, or otherwise housing evacuees. One secretary has 32 people living in her 3-bedroom home!