Catholic Charities Disaster Response Press Kit

Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston provides response coordination and short-term and long-term recovery services to individuals and families dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes.

Read below for information about long-term disaster recovery, the role Catholic Charities takes in the immediate aftermath and long-term relief, and what resources are available for flood survivors.

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What is Long-term Disaster Recovery?
What’s the Timeframe for Long-term Disaster Recovery?
What Does Long-term Disaster Recovery Include?
What Is Long-term Recovery Case Management and Why Is It Important?
Why Is It So Difficult for People to Access Available Disaster Recovery Funding?

What is Catholic Charities’ Role After a Disaster?
How Has Catholic Charities Helped People in Response to 2015 and 2016 Floods?

What Help is Available for Flood Survivors and How Can They Access It?
How Can You Reach Catholic Charities?
Who Is Catholic Charities?

What is Long-term Disaster Recovery?
Long-term disaster recovery is the period following a flood or other disaster when the affected community and its residents return to a “new normal” state of living (National Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, 2012). It comes after disaster relief (immediate help such as shelter, food/water) and short-term recovery (damage evaluation, home cleanup, return to work/school, interim housing). A long-term recovery program is usually established in the community to help its most vulnerable residents through the recovery process. The team handling long-term disaster recovery (LTDR) usually involves government, private sector, social service and faith-based representatives.

What’s the Timeframe for Long-term Disaster Recovery?
The Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) says it often takes individuals/families and communities months or even years to fully recover from a major, widespread disaster such as a flood.

What Does Long-term Disaster Recovery Include?
Long-term recovery is needed for both individuals/families and the broader community. For an individual or family, long-term recovery may include dealing with landlord issues related to a flooded  residence, moving to safe housing, paying for extensive home repairs, paying for two residences, reporting on the use of disaster recovery funds, replacing all household and personal items, finding new employment or reopening a business, replacing a vehicle, starting children in a new school, coping with the emotional distress of the disaster and losses, bringing scattered family members home… and many other personalized issues related to finding a “new normal.”

At the community level, long-term recovery may include creating access to affordable housing for displaced disaster survivors, rebuilding infrastructure to meet future community needs, providing oversight and coordination of the recovery efforts, implementing economic revitalization strategies, reestablishing disrupted health care facilities, helping raise funds for unmet needs and implementing strategies to lessen the impact of future disasters.

After basic needs are met, homes are cleaned out and shelters are emptied, long-term recovery is just beginning. When disasters overlap or when people are hit multiple times by similar events – such as the Greater Houston floods in 2015 and 2016 – the long-term recovery process get delayed because people return to the earlier stages of immediate relief or short-term recovery with each new disaster. 

What Is Long-term Recovery Case Management and Why Is It Important?

Case management requires a specialized skill set and extensive knowledge of the programs and systems that support people facing the long-term challenges of finding their “new normal” after a disaster. Case managers often serve the roles of resource coordinator, counselor, advocate, advisor and researcher – but their ultimate goal is to help individuals and families get their lives back on track. This may include helping them find and get settled into a safe home with furnishings and clothing; connecting them to resources such as legal assistance or recovery funding; helping them access health care, transportation and job placement centers; ensuring their children are enrolled in school; and much more. Case managers are disaster survivors’ lifeline when their worlds are torn apart, and they help people navigate the complicated networks of services so they can receive the benefits they need to move forward.

Why Is It So Difficult for People to Access Available Disaster Recovery Funding?
All relief agencies working to help disaster survivors want to ensure the people in need receive maximum help as quickly as possible, but sometimes their hands are tied locally until the processes at the federal and state level are resolved. The systems for requesting, receiving and using disaster-recovery funds are complex – and they often involve government at all levels and local disaster recovery coalitions. The application and review processes are in place: 1) to help maximize funding for those who need it most; 2) to prevent overlapping assistance for the same purpose; and 3) to prevent fraudulent claims for funding that would take assistance away from the people who were actually affected.

Based on federal government standards, people must meet stringent requirements to prove they are disaster survivors. Also, they must apply for funding in a certain order – beginning at the federal level – or they will lose the opportunity to receive certain funds to help them recover. If they use funds from two sources for the same purpose, one set of funds has to be returned.

During the emergency phase, local government and voluntary agencies like Catholic Charities supply assistance such as food, shelter, clothing and medical assistance. During the relief phase, a number of entities and processes come into play – and ALL these sources must be exhausted before someone can qualify as having “unmet need.” Once people pass the relief phase, they must follow a series of steps (in order) to gain maximum assistance to get back to their “new normal.”

1) Insurance (homeowners’, renters’, auto, medical) – An individual’s private insurance coverage will be the first line of defense and response.

2) FEMA – Requires registration and applicant must fit criteria; funds are connected to a specific disaster incident.

3) FEMA Housing Assistance – For qualified applicants, this program may provide temporary housing (rental assistance, lodging reimbursement), direct assistance in a FEMA-provided housing unit or financial assistance for home repairs or replacement. FEMA funds cannot overlap other sources providing the same assistance; if this occurs, the individual inadvertently, the individual will be forced to return FEMA funds.

3) Small Business Administration Disaster Loans – Individuals who don’t qualify for FEMA Housing Assistance because their income is too high may apply for an SBA disaster loan for home repair or replacement, personal property replacement and business repair. Applicants must apply and be turned down before they can receive assistance from the Other Needs Assistance (ONA) program.

4) Other Government Disaster Programs – The government offers other programs (that must be applied for) including Disaster Unemployment Assistance, Crisis Counseling, Legal Assistance, IRS Assistance for casualty loss, Veterans Assistance, HUD Housing, USDA Rural Housing and USDA Food Stamp Assistance.

5) FEMA/State Other Needs Assistance (ONA)SBA Dependent: After a person is denied an SBA disaster loan, he or she may apply for ONA for personal property replacement, a vehicle and moving/storage costs. Non-SBA Dependent: ONA is available without applying for and being denied an SBA loan for assistance with a funeral, dental or medical expenses, childcare costs, other disaster-created expenses and public transportation.

6) Long-term Recovery Groups – After all these resources have been explored and exhausted, if a person still has officially defined “unmet needs,” they can apply for locally managed unmet needs funds for long-term recovery assistance. In Houston, the available unmet needs funds are being managed by Neighborhood Centers.

If these “unmet needs” funds are awarded too early in this process, before an individual or family has applied for and received or been denied other available funding it can cause them: 1) to not qualify for various government funds; or 2) to be forced to send back funds they have already received. Also, if the very limited funds available locally are not carefully distributed, they will not benefit the people who need them most.

That’s why careful assessment, attention to detail and dedicated case managers are so vital to successful long-term disaster recovery. This complex funds awarding process is also why donations dedicated to helping people in our community may seem to take a while to reach the people in need.


What is Catholic Charities’ Role After a Disaster?
Catholic Charities focuses on helping people in need become self-sufficient and build better lives. This is true every day but is particularly relevant after disasters, such as the floods that hit Houston in 2015 and 2016. Our disaster recovery focus is on restoring hope and rebuilding lives.

We provide response coordination and short-term and long-term recovery services to individuals and families dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters like hurricanes, floods and other catastrophes.

After a natural disaster, free disaster recovery assistance may include:

  • Help accessing available resources
  • Help determining if you qualify for supplemental funding

We also provide professional counseling services to help disaster survivors manage stress and cope with change, such as:

  • Family members relocating to your home/their home while repairs are made
  • Job loss
  • Marital conflicts

Disaster recovery services, including short and long-term recovery assistance through the assistance of a case manager, are activated as needed and if resources are available.

How Has Catholic Charities Helped People in Response to 2015 and 2016 Floods?

  • In 2015, 631 individuals affected by the Memorial Day floods received our aid.
  • Catholic Charities has served 2,422 individuals across Harris, Fort Bend and Montgomery counties since the April 18, 2016, “Tax Day Floods.”
    • A few of the people receiving resources from Catholic Charities were current clients; the rest were people in the community who needed assistance.
  • Total Catholic Charities direct assistance to 2016 flood survivors by 9-1-16 totaled $103,205-plus, not including staff time, mileage, office supplies, gas for vehicles, food from pantry, etc.
  • Catholic Charities received a total of $281,350 from the Mayor’s Flood Relief Fund, and the majority was for Long-term Disaster Recovery – primarily case management.
    • $67,000 for reimbursement for direct service Catholic Charities staff hours, administration and a small amount of direct assistance provided within days of the flood.
    • $214,350 designated for long-term case management to assist flood survivors over the coming months and maybe even years to get back to the “new normal.”
      • Until September, long-term case management was handled by existing Catholic Charities staff. The funding from the Mayor’s office will allow Catholic Charities to hire three new case managers. Offers have been extended to two case managers and soon to a third. They will be assigned to the Northwest Harris County and Greenspoint areas impacted by the flood.
      • The resources provided by the Mayor’s Fund will be expended as planned by the required June 30, 2017, end date for long-term case management for flood survivors.
    • Catholic Charities’ Mamie George Community Center (MGCC) was in the middle of the flooding in Fort Bend County and volunteered as a command center for government and several other organizations.
      • MGCC also served as a drop-off site for donations.
      • The center has served as a hub for follow-up meetings as the community has dealt with the aftermath of the floods.
    • While Catholic Charities is skilled at long-term case management, the staff was immediately available to assist flood victims in both 2015 and 2016. After the April 2016 floods, for example, Vice President Natalie Wood and Director of Mission Integration Matt Johns joined Red Cross staff at the M.O. Campbell Educational Center to oversee the transition of impacted residents from the center to hotels. The Catholic Charities staff (and coordinated volunteers) delivered food and hot meals to the individuals and families for days at the hotels – and began working the phones to check on their safety and needs and to respond to incoming calls related to the flood.
    • Catholic Charities responded to 871 phone calls from across the area and delivered over 7,000 pounds of food (from our pantries and disaster recovery boxes) to Greenspoint-area flood survivors in hotel rooms and lobbies, and through door-to-door case management – in addition to hot meals.
      • Catholic Charities provided case management to 173 families for a total of 553 individuals in the Greenspoint area.
      • During the first 10 days, Catholic Charities delivered food boxes three different times to 104 rooms at the Baymont Inn & Suites and Park Inn by Radisson.
      • For the families whose time in the hotels was extended for two weeks, Catholic Charities staff and other volunteers supplied hot dinners every single night.
      • Between April 22 through mid-May 2016, five team members from Catholic Charities provided more than 1,100 staff hours in addition to their normal jobs.

What Help is Available for Flood Survivors and How Can They Access It? 



  • All seeking help are encouraged to call 2-1-1 first to determine the best resources for assistance.
  • All damage should be reported. Damage information will be placed in a database that will alert cleanup crews:
  • Visit to find information on the types of assistance offered to flood victims.
  • For professional counseling services, the only requirement is that the issue requiring counseling must be related to the disaster.
  • We can also help you connect to Lone Star Legal Aid for legal assistance related to tenants’ rights.


This varies by disaster. You will need to provide:

  • Pre-disaster address
  • Current address
  • Current phone number
  • FEMA number, if applicable
  • Alternate contact information 

How Can You Reach Catholic Charities?

Call 713-526-4611 to reach our main offices. You can also read more about our network of services at If are beginning the process of seeking help, please begin by calling 2-1-1 so they can refer you to all available resources.

Who Is Catholic Charities?
For more than 70 years, Catholic Charities – guided by God’s love – has provided food, clothing, shelter and a network of support services to people of all ages and from all walks of life and religious backgrounds. The nonprofit promotes social justice, serving as a voice for the poor and vulnerable. Annually, Catholic Charities provides help and creates hope for more than 78,000 people as they create better lives for themselves and their families. For more information, visit