Displaced Single Mothers in the Aftermath of Hurricane Katrina: Resource Needs and Resource Acquisition

August 2010 (VOL. 28, NO. 2)

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This research, which was conducted in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, draws on 50 in-depth interviews with displaced single mothers and disaster relief providers in Colorado. Government agencies and charitable organizations offered various resources and services to Katrina evacuees, including food, clothing, emergency shelter, temporary housing, transportation, employment assistance, temporary childcare, school enrollment assistance, and health care. This study illustrates that there was close alignment between resources provided by disaster response organizations and resources needed by displaced single mothers. Yet, despite the considerable overlap, the single mothers in this study experienced many recovery-related difficulties associated with accessing available resources. In particular, single mothers 1) were often unaware of available resources; 2) experienced a conjunction of many different, pressing needs; 3) suffered a loss of their informal social safety net; 4) encountered numerous bureaucratic obstacles in accessing aid; and 5) often felt mistreated and stigmatized. These barriers to accessing resources heightened the vulnerability of single mother headed households.