Briefly, I thought there might be an opportunity in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina for America to generate a huge amount of bridging social capital, as people with financial resources (enoguh to have a spare suite or apartment) offered assistance to people on a one-to-one basis. There’s been a huge outpouring of offers. But the official response seems to be to prefer big shelters and commercial rentals for longer term, rather than person-to-person aid. The adopt-a-family program I’ve heard about in Texas, where the adopting family is supposed to provide aid other than housing (like getting oriented, finding schools, etc.), seems like a nice exception.
Apparently, people with more resources and more connections have been leaving the shelter system to stay with friends and family. When they’re ready for more permanent housing, some of them seem to be making use of individual offers of assistance, often found through friend-of-a-friend, sometimes with someone in the chain consulting Internet-based information resources.
It seems like a lost opportunity that the people with fewest resources, who are still in the shelter system, are not getting connected to people of greater means at a time when those people who are well-off are unusually open to a human connection accross class lines. It could have had a positive long-term impact on the social fabric of America. Here’s to hoping the connections still happen, perhaps if adopt-a-family or welcome-wagon programs take off in the coming weeks.