Abstract – No shelter from the storm: Reclaiming the right to housing and protecting the health of vulnerable communities in post-Katrina New Orleans

Tiffany M. Gardner, Alec Irwin, and Curtis W. Peterson

Health and Human Rights 11/2

Published December 2009


This article explores human rights- and health-related aspects of the rebuilding process in New Orleans, Louisiana, USA, following the August 2005 assault of Hurricane Katrina. We look at the health and social impacts of post-Katrina redevelopment policies on New Orleans’ poor black communities. We describe systematic violations of poor black residents’ human right to housing, and we explore associations between these rights violations and documented negative trends in community health. The article describes some of the ways that poor constituencies in New Orleans have organized to resist the destruction of their communities and to reclaim their rights to adequate housing, health, and dignity. Post-Katrina violations of the right to housing in New Orleans should be seen as part of a broader pattern in social policy and the control of urban habitats in the United States. Poor black residents’ struggle to assert their human right to housing has implications for the health of local communities and the credibility of democratic processes.