Barred from their pre-Katrina homes, where did the rest of those families go? A new report from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research attempts to find out. It argues that black women bore the brunt of this aspect of the disaster, since the vast majority of lease holders in public housing are women. In the four projects, upwards of 75 percent of families had female heads of households with children under 18. The report, called “Get to the Bricks: the Experiences of Black Women from New Orleans Public Housing after Hurricane Katrina,” also argues that these women’s experiences and demands have largely been left out of the rebuilding process. It tries to correct the record by gathering their stories.
Over the course of two years, from 2008 to 2010, researchers interviewed 184 black women who had lived in the Big Four at the time of the hurricane. They were now in Baton Rouge, Houston, or back in New Orleans. Taken together, their words paint a picture of the horrors and disruptions that these women and their families have experienced. After managing to survive the rising floodwaters in their homes, days-long waits for help, and chaotic conditions in the Superdome, they were bused to unfamiliar places where they had to determine how, when, and whether to go home.