homes. Many knew each other from their old New Orleans neighborhood in the Lower Ninth Ward. The residents were mainly working-class and working-poor residents who had been displaced from their homes, and represented a mix of homeowners and renters living in this Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)-subsidized emergency housing.
Our team of 15 researchers fanned out across the trailer park to recruit the mobile home residents to our Gulf Coast Child and Family Health Study. This was the baseline survey for what would ultimately be a 5-year longitudinal cohort study of 1,079 randomly sampled households in Louisiana and Mississippi. The interviews generally took about 45 minutes. One of the interviewers emerged from a home after 2 hours with the resident. She was visibly moved as she recounted the woman’s story.
“M” was in her late 40s, a mother of 2 children, 1 high-school-aged, the other an adult. During the hurricane, “M” was separated from her husband and daughters, because she had been required to report to the health care facility where she worked and ended up evacuating with the patients. For almost a week, the family did not know of one another’s fate, or even whether they had survived the storm. They ended up reunited at a Texas shelter, and during the succeeding 6 months leading up to our interview, they moved 7 times, across multiple states. As “M” described her journey to our interviewer, she pulled out a scrapbook. It was filled with pictures—of her destroyed home in New Orleans, and then of every place where she and the family had stayed since the hurricane. They had moved from shelter to shelter, to hotels and motels, to crowded homes where they doubled up with friends, and ultimately to this trailer park. Her husband drove their teenaged daughter back and forth to her old New Orleans high school daily, commuting up to 4 hours in an effort to maintain this stability in their daughter’s life. The snapshots in the scrapbook chronicled this story. “Whenever my girls face something difficult in their lives, I want them to be able to pull this scrapbook out,” “M” told our interviewer. “I want them to see where they’ve been, the challenges they’ve faced. This is their strength. There isn’t anything they can’t handle.”
Our research team re-interviewed “M” three more times in the subsequent 5 years. Two years after the hurricane, the team found her living in a travel trailer in the front yard of her New Orleans home as she supervised its reconstruction. By the last round of interviewing, she and her family had moved back in to their home, and her daughter had graduated from high school and was attending college. It appeared that the