Partnerships and coordinated efforts are a crucial aspect of delivering holistic services to disaster survivors. The best partnerships begin during “blue skies” when there is no active disaster. Without a ticking clock, partners can plan for coordinated services and contingencies. This subsection focuses on vulnerable populations, but the suggestions are broadly applicable.
Advocates and intake staff may benefit from training in effective communication with low-income clients and disaster survivors. While it is very important to be sympathetic to the client in the recovery stages after a disaster, make sure the intake process is structured and efficient so that intake services are available to as many survivors as possible.37
The importance of working with partners, whether in task forces or other coalitions, is paramount. Partnering not only helps with efficient provision of services to those in need, but also creates a forum for issue-spotting broad trends and advancing initiatives that require collaborative approaches (e.g., reforms to local or state disaster relief programs that are disproportionately denying, or not being advertised to, low-income or vulnerable populations).
Partnering must include stakeholders from different fields and types of experience—the state and local Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs) are often already connected across professional fields—and advocates should utilize existing networks as much as possible. In badly impacted local areas, community members may organize their own meeting groups; advocates may want to attend meetings and provide legal information presentations.
37 For a training on effective legal communication with low- to moderate-income clients generally and navigating unique needs, see Practicing Law Institute, Communicating with Pro Bono Clients, available at https://www.pli.edu.