Date of Conferral





Public Policy and Administration


David Milen


Urban communities often lack the ability to recover after disaster plans have been implemented because of a lack of coordinated resources among federal, state, and local agencies. As a result, economically marginalized citizens find themselves in risky conditions, particularly concerning finding and securing post-disaster housing. Using social conflict theory as a guide, the purpose of this exploratory case study of an urban area in a southern state was to better understand the specific vulnerabilities of urban communities and develop solutions for challenges related to emergency or temporary shelters to victims. Data were primarily collected through interviews with 10 residents who experienced a series of tornadoes in 2011. These data were inductively coded and then subjected to a thematic analysis. Findings indicate that participants tended to consider themselves as displaced, but not homeless, even though temporary housing needs ranged between 45 days and 18 months. Participants also reported that coordination efforts to distribute funding to displaced residence failed, as did private insurance in most cases. As a result, competition for scarce resources was significant and most people tended to rely upon financial help from friends and family members. The positive social change implications stemming from this study include recommendations to city planners and emergency managers to strengthen relationships with community leaders to assess needs prior to a disaster and establish a 'bottom-up' planning policy rather than wait for a disaster to assess the availability of federal or state funding that may not come in order to proactively protect vulnerable community members from post-disaster housing deficiencies.