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Washington DC, World Bank. Lyons, M. Climate Risk Management. Disaster Recovery Journal. Environmental Hazards. International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction. International Journal of Emergency Management. Journal of Development Studies.

Texas Housing Program Aims to Rebuild Faster after Disaster

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Bilateral and Multilateral Agencies. Information and Data Sources. Online Networks. Both these networks operate through the LinkedIn social networking service. Aldrich, D. Chicago, University of Chicago Press. Beatley, T. Washington, D. Lucini, B. New York, Springer. Rodin, J. Profile Books, London. Turnbull, M. Dodman, D.

Atlanta, Habitat for Humanity. Sanderson, D. Coward, M. The Politics of Urban Destruction. Nairobi, UN-Habitat. Since minorities were at a distinct disadvantage in receiving substantial amounts of aid from these sources, as discussed previously, they were not able to access much permanent housing reconstruction assistance. Anglos were able to receive this type of assistance from more sources than either minority group, and particularly African-Americans.

And, there were weakly significant distinctions between minorities. Since the African-American community was splintered into many denominations, the primary social networks were exceptionally fragile and did not have the critical number to support its members through this natural disaster. Hispanics were significantly poorer than Anglos, and they were dealing with greater losses than their Anglo counterparts were, yet extended help along familial networks almost as much as Anglos.

This is an indication of greater robustness among Hispanic social networks, when compared to African-Americans, and their ability to continue practicing cultural behavioral patterns of mutual assistance. In regards to rebuilding materials, there were no significant differences between minority groups.


Rebuilding materials is a type of assistance that directly relates to personal wealth accumulation. The lack of this type of assistance for minority groups strengthens the argument of institutional barriers faced by them in the recovery process, even if no direct causal relationships were evident. The fact that Anglos were receiving help for permanent housing restoration from so many sources, as compared to other minorities, was contrary to expectation and even local impressions provided by key informants.

Even after controlling for variables such as damage, age, income, and so on, ethnicity was still found to be a statistically significant variable in whether a household received aid from their social network. African-Americans were still significantly less likely to receive aid from their social networks than other ethnic groups.

However, when supplementing the qualitative data, and local, social dynamics of the recovery process into context, one can better understand the ethnic variations in significant differences for access to permanent housing aid. Many of the ethnic differences in aid acquisition, and particularly permanent housing assistance, were obfuscated by a lack of previous research, knowledge of the complex federal system, funding complexities, and local socio-cultural challenges in housing reconstruction, which resulted in poor data categorization inhibiting a more parsed statistical analysis of the housing recovery processes.

Wealth creation is particularly seen as an individualistic endeavor, and one the Federal government is loath to support at individualistic levels. This attitude is strengthened in the South, and rural communities through religious and national cultures that emphasis aspects of the Protestant Work Ethic and associated beliefs Osthaus ; Smith Throughout the USA, permanent housing is often viewed as the ultimate measures of wealth, or success, and often represents the single greatest investment any individual makes. The same value system permeates, and structures disaster assistance at the Federal level as is evidenced by the types of aid provided: insurance and loans FEMA Both types of aid are subsidized by Federal tax dollars, and require considerable wealth creation and buy-in into the system before they can be accessed, but which also requires an intermediary: banker or broker.

Cultural research literature sheds light on the ethnic dynamics within the community by providing different ways of interpreting coping actions to the housing recovery process, that emphasize the importance of environmental assessments within transactional stress theory, and show how vulnerabilities are increased when power is concentrated within the purview of one ethnic group Germain It appears this was the case in Switchback.

Polletta emphasizes the importance of culture in disaster recovery by highlighting previous experiences and how these would affect victims as they seek aid in the recovery process. As people attempt to rebuild, they first seek assistance in those places where they had found it before, such as with family, friends, etc. Once familiar sources of support have been exhausted, survivors will extend outward to attempt to discover new avenues of resources if needed.

Respectively, if they had not previously found aid from a certain sector, or if they associate negative experiences with a certain sector, people will actively eschew those interactions.


It is in this context that the distinction between individualistic and collectivistic cultures becomes seminal. She stresses that expectations of government involvement in the recovery process are based on previous experiences and the trust developed between the various groups and governmental institutions. If political participation has not been a successful venue for social change in the past, residents may be adverse to engage in that type of activity, especially at a time of heightened vulnerability, such as after a disaster.

Other disaster research has emphasized that cultural norms or patterns tend to remain stable and not adapt easily to sudden changes, even in the face of calamitous environmental events. Data from Switchback provide a layered interpretation of culture. When the unit of analysis was at the household level, cultural norms or patterns of aid acquisition did not hold up under the stresses of housing recovery in the wake of a natural disaster.

Both these groups exemplified transactional stress theory, which emphasizes the use of logical means to overcome unexpected obstacles and encourage people to act in self-benefiting ways Lazarus and Folkman An intriguing problem then becomes why African-Americans did not also access all sources of available aid. In reality, as can be seen by the number of FEMA application, African-Americans, like their neighbors, tried to apply for recovery assistance, but were not able to obtain it, due to their lower household incomes and other environmental factors.

When federal help was of little avail to them, they were left with virtually no assistance. When the unit of analysis is the community, cultural patterns remained constant. The African-American community in Switchback was not well integrated among itself, as was evidenced by the numerous churches within the town that served relatively small congregations, and less so with its neighbors.

There seemed to be no attempt to organize among themselves, and the lack of a galvanizing leader, who could articulate the needs of the African-American community and advocate for them, made it that much easier for Anglos to ignore their ethnic neighbors. There were definite efforts to paint minorities, and African-Americans in particular, as lazy and just there to take advantage of the system and reap all the benefits of recovery assistance, which it was insinuated they did not deserve KI98—32 ; KI98—03 ; KI98—05 It is not clear from this study whether the denigration expressed toward African-Americans has been so impressed on the population that they have internalized the knowledge and learned never to press for assistance from local Anglo sources; or if, the negative attitude toward African-Americans, either consciously or subconsciously, thwarted Anglo power holders from breaking with cultural patterns and providing assistance to this group.

The group most consistently affected negatively by its ethnicity was the African-Americans. Significant negative differences were found in the aid received between African-Americans and both Anglos and Hispanics, even after controlling for demographic and damage differences.

Such qualifiers affirm Horton et al. Interestingly, this derisive attitude was always focused toward minority groups, and African-Americans in particular, but the evidence shows they were the group that received the least amount of help and had the greatest need. Meanwhile, Anglos, as a group, had the least need and received the greatest amount of help. What was painfully obvious during data collection was the additional vulnerability the African-American population faced in a rural town.

The lack of social networks, within the town itself, served to weaken individual households in their recovery process, and the lack of social networks external to the town meant that there were no additional resources, which could be brought in to highlight their plight.

Rural towns are notorious for their conservatism and often fight change whenever possible Chun et al. Cultural dynamics and power differentials need to be addressed and brought to the forefront so political and economic inequities, such as those found in Switchback, can be identified in local mitigation plans, and plans include extra efforts that should be targeted for outreach to minority communities by States and national non-profit groups. The Anglo population in Switchback is deeply rooted in its ethnocentric evaluation of the other minorities and their coping strategies, and since they almost exclusively dominate the power structures of the town, it sets-up a negative, self-perpetuating feedback loop.

Minority groups become more entrenched among themselves, feeling less and less capable of making substantial differences in their lives, and Anglos subsequently continuing to blame the victims for not changing their fortunes, while neither group is realizing that they are using different value systems and cultures to assess each other. However, this research showed that under the severe environmental stress produced by natural disasters, immediate cultural behavior is not a limiting factor driving non-institutionalized recovery processes.

The biggest problem lies within the power differentials that are established along ethnic and cultural lines creating a de facto caste system and institutionalizing cultural cleavages. These problems and barriers to aid acquisition and community solidarity foretold similar social dynamics found during the Hurricane Katrina recovery processes that related directly to implicit and explicit occurrences of institutional discrimination Henkel et al.

These power differentials deter multifaceted relationship between groups, which would allow trust to grow Lindell and Perry Wenger noted that one of the key determinants to community resiliency was the establishment and nurturing of horizontal ties or relationship with other groups at similar organizational levels. In an age of climate change, and increased incidences of natural disasters, Switchback serves as an example of the heightened need to create institutional venues for community integration.

Ample research shows that community resilience is heightened and reinforced by strengthening both vertical and horizontal ties Wenger Socio-linguists have popularized the concept of echo chambers to describe social behavior that seeks out or qualitatively engages almost exclusively with others of the same opinions, interests, and values Passe et al. It is the manifestation of a human trait called homophily which Stafford and his team have suggested is an evolutionary adaptation Holroyd et al.

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Emergency managers, mitigation planners, ethnic enclaves, and community leaders need to be aware of the increasing levels of vulnerability being created by the fragmentation of the social fabric. One of the greatest lessons learned by the first generation of disaster researchers was that community resiliency increases through the creation and support of horizontal and vertical ties within and between cities.

That lesson has been borne out again, and again, in disaster recovery. However, awareness of increased vulnerability and ways to create resilience are often lost in day-to-day transactions. Urban planners and politicians know the challenges of creating sustainable linkages between groups, but these challenges need to be undertaken by everyone, especially during times of low stress when learning and capacity development can take place in an environment that downplays a competition for resources.

In light of the quickened pace of globalization, and exponential increases in complexity, it is tempting to seek solace and comfort in homophily, but that just underscores the urgency for finding cultural, political, and institutional responses to balance ideals of integration with respect for cultural differences, and creation of greater resilience.

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Community Disaster Recovery and Resiliency

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A Texas Town Overhauls Disaster Recovery Housing - CityLab

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