Post-Katrina relief seen as spotty

In the hours and days immediately following Hurricane Katrina last year, government agencies and nonprofit groups were too overwhelmed and unprepared provide timely assistance, a new report says.

The Fritz Institute commissioned a survey by Harris Interactive of Katrina victims, both those who evacuated ahead of the storm and those who stayed.

Six in 10 people surveyed say they received no outside assistance in the first two days following the hurricane, and more than a quarter of those who stayed in the area waited a week or more for help, the study says.

Those who waited longest for assistance tended to be from the most vulnerable populations, including those with disabilities, those with lower incomes and those with could not evacuate because of lack of resources.

About three in 10 non-evacuees say they stayed because they did not have the resources to leave.

Of those people, the report says, seven in 10 had no other place to go, more than a third had no car, and another third say they were unable to leave their homes without help.

In the aftermath of the storm, only slightly more than one in 10 people say they received assistance in finding lost friends and family members, and fewer than that received counseling or help in finding a job.

For those who did receive assistance immediately following the storm, the vast majority say it was timely, adequate and delivered in a kind manner.

Almost half the Katrina victims say the American Red Cross provided the best overall relief, the study says, but another 14 percent named the charity as needing the most improvement.

Groups providing the most assistance in the first two days following the storm were nonprofits, police and religious groups, respondents reported.

The report recommends more planning, collaboration and cooperation among these local groups to be better prepared for future disasters.

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