Learned in 3 Years Since Katrina: Word on the Street

Rosana Cruz, Safe Streets/Strong Communities, New Orleans:

There was a glut of money but most of it went to national organizations that are larger, and to a few local organizations that are well-known. It was the prom queen dynamic: only one organization gets the attention, even though there are a lot of great local organizations. It's about who has the attention to get resources, to get power.

How are things different for community nonprofits after Katrina?

Staff hiring is a HUGE challenge, including getting our staff back from wherever they went. The nonprofit sector was deeply wounded by Katrina. There wasn't a lot of infrastructure for the grassroots before, and the lack of infrastructure is hurting us even more post-Katrina. The climate is a lot more hostile: every issue turns into a battle for the city.

Crime for instance is a battlefield: people (professionals) say, 'We need to get tough on crime.' But 60% of the arrests are for municipal or traffic offenses, such as public urination or driving a bicycle one-handed. The developers and the funders want to see arrests go up because they're worried some big [construction] development will fail if people don't want to come to the city as tourists or to live here.

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