Gulf Coast Charities Can’t Keep Up with Demand for Help


Perhaps the “Mission Accomplished” perception being pushed by our federal government and certain business boosters is relatively harmless – why not be optimistic? But that false optimism does real damage once you move away from Washington and London.

Mark Waller at the Times-Picayune has a report that illustrates that point, quoting charity workers in Louisiana saying: “… perceptions [are] that the crisis is over and that money from BP is taking care of all the losses have detracted from fundraising.”

The story cites a food bank worker reporting a “sustained 25 percent increase in demand.” And here are some numbers: A food group called Second Harvest has distributed more than 610,000 meals to families affected by the BP oil spill. The organization Catholic Charities has served 35,277 people with food vouchers, mental health counseling, financial help with housing costs and baby supplies.

One problem is that, in spending something like $100 million on those ironic “we’ll make it right” ads, BP managed to convince many people that they would actually do just that. However, if that were true, somebody in London would be cutting a check to Catholic Charities for those 35,000-plus meals. The BP con game clearly diminished the kind of outpouring of financial support that comes after, say, a hurricane.

Meanwhile, the people dealing with the economic effects of the BP spill continue to report that the mission in the Gulf is anything but accomplished. Instead, they report that while work is increasing, the ripple effects through the economy continue to devastate many families – and that it will get worse before it gets much better.

Read Mr. Waller’s report from the front lines here:

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Stuart H. Smith is an attorney based in New Orleans fighting major oil companies and other polluters.
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