The Katrina Moment: Rethinking Disaster with Black Geographies
Caldwell, Kela E.
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Prelude: I spent two years working in homeless services in Los Angeles after graduating from college in 2016, matching unhoused individuals to long-term housing opportunities, supporting outreach, case conferencing, and community planning. Working in the field, I quickly became aware of the precarious nature of citizenship. For example, I learned that without proof of a state ID card or driver’s license in the state of California, one is ineligible for social services and public housing opportunities. Never had I considered how critical a small piece of plastic was for one’s survival or the ways it might serve as a barrier to rights and citizenship. With this understanding, I worked to pilot a resource event to address this barrier by helping clients apply for ID cards. Through the event, I met a young woman from New Orleans, whom I will refer to as Céline. As I helped her fill out the application for a new California ID, she shared her journey and experiences of homelessness. I was surprised when I learned she had most recently relocated from Houston, Texas. Céline’s story represented one of many who had experienced multiple bouts of displacement and homelessness. In her case, from New Orleans to Houston after Hurricane Katrina and then from Houston to California following Hurricane Harvey. Seemingly separate local events, Céline’s experience illustrates the long-term and protracted impact of disaster and vulnerability for an individual over time and space.
Advisors and Committee Members: Jenna Loyd, Venkat Mani and Matt Turner. Includes References.