Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name


Degree Program

Urban Studies


School of Urban Planning and Regional Studies

Major Professor

Jenkins, Pamela

Second Advisor

Laska, Shirley

Third Advisor

Ward, Martha

Fourth Advisor

Day, William


This research is an ethnography which investigates the effects of Hurricane Katrina upon the capacity of African American Protestant churches in New Orleans to provide spiritual and social ministry to the city's underprivileged. More than three years after Hurricane Katrina unleashed its fury upon the city, fifty per cent of the churches remain as the hurricane left them. Pre-Katrina, fifty per cent of the population lived at or below the poverty line and depended upon faith-based programs as part of their support network and ladder toward selfsufficiency. Because of the disaster, there was substantive loss of parishioners, financial resources, and program operational infrastructure that severely limited or destroyed faith-based capacity to serve. The purpose of the study is to examine what social vulnerabilities and barriers hinder churches' capacity to serve community needs in four particular areas, including providing and advocating for affordable housing, quality health care, strategies for eliminating poverty, and disaster evacuation education, preparedness and response. The researcher hypothesizes that structural and institutional racism were already undermining that capacity pre-Katrina and continues to hinder it more than three years since. The study investigates the veracity of this hypothesis. It attempts to offer strategies to help mitigate the social vulnerabilities and increase the community's resiliency and sustainability against future disasters. This research is important because it provides increased awareness and understanding of how pre-existing social vulnerabilities in combination with Hurricane Katrina contributed to the lingering diminished capacity of the church and community. It also provides insight into how the faith community's attitude and action toward handling its vulnerabilities lead to increased resiliency and sustainability, and suggest a course of action toward the alleviation of marginalization of both the faith institutions and the people they serve.


The University of New Orleans and its agents retain the non-exclusive license to archive and make accessible this dissertation or thesis in whole or in part in all forms of media, now or hereafter known. The author retains all other ownership rights to the copyright of the thesis or dissertation.