The historic flooding along the Texas coast reminds us that at various times and in various places, civil legal aid attorneys have assisted clients in dealing with the aftermath of natural disasters -- floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes, wildfires. These advocates have seen that communities already facing the human-made disasters of poor infrastructure and economic insecurity are often the hardest hit by natural disasters and the least able to bounce back quickly. Several of them have shared their wisdom over the years by writing about their experiences in the Clearinghouse Review. This featured collection highlights some of those articles, many of which focus on Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath. Advocates interested in this topic should check out other disaster-related content on the Clearinghouse: Jamie Rodriguez's advocacy story on her disaster-recovery work after a devastating tornado in Joplin, Missouri; Davida Finger's advocacy story on FEMA's efforts to recoup disaster assistance overpayments in the wake of Hurricane Katrina; Noah Shaw and Joseph Rich's advocacy story on the Mississippi litigation that made sure disaster-relief funds were spent appropriately; Ranie Thompson's interview about her work in New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina; Jennifer Ching's interview about working in the aftermath of Superstorm Sandy.
The Mississippi Center for Justice began in 2003 with a mission of carrying on work that had waned in the deep South since the height of the civil rights movement. In a state that ranks at or near the bottom on many indicators of racial equity and low-income residents’ well-being, the Center uses a range of legal tools to tackle what its founders concluded are the starkest examples of social injustice, including incarceration of juveniles, limited Medicaid benefits, and, more recently, predatory lending. Following Hurricane Katrina, the center opened a new office on the Gulf Coast and helped prevent diversion of federal funds intended for recovery in low-income communities.
There is No Such Thing as a Natural Disaster: Race, Class, and Hurricane Katrina, edited by Chester Hartman and Gregory D. Squires, answers the question of why those left behind after Hurricane Katrina were overwhelmingly poor people of color. According to There Is No Such Thing, Katrina should be used as an opportunity to create a more just community.
Two residents of New Orleans, a law school professor and his wife, a hospital nurse, evacuated the flooded city five days after Hurricane Katrina struck. Mostly African American, poor, sick, elderly, or disabled people and prisoners and children were left behind. They are also being left behind in New Orleans.
This article describes the organization of federal disaster relief programs, how the Federal Emergency Management Agency responded to Hurricane Hugo and the Loma Prieta earthquake in fall 1989, and how legal services programs can prepare to assist clients in the event of a disaster.