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Justice

Zoned for Displacement

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may have hit white and non-white families alike, but it will be people of color who will have the toughest time getting their homes back, which is by design.
In this photo combination, evacuees wade down Tidwell Road in Houston on August 28, 2017, top, as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise, and a car drives down the same road on September 5, bottom, after the water receded.
In this photo combination, evacuees wade down Tidwell Road in Houston on August 28, 2017, top, as floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey rise, and a car drives down the same road on September 5, bottom, after the water receded.David J. Phillip/AP

Hilton Kelley has been sounding off on Facebook Live the past few days about families who evacuated their homes to escape Hurricane Harvey and are now getting eviction notices. The families live in Port Arthur, Texas, the small Gulf Coast city about 90 miles east of Houston, but are currently scattered across Louisiana and Texas. Kelley himself had to evacuate—his fourth time doing so in the last 15 years due to hurricane flooding—but was able to make it back to his home last week. He’s now trying to locate as many dispersed families as possible via social media to find out who hasn’t come back and why. That’s when he found out about the eviction notices.

Those kinds of blindsiding evictions are a rootshock that many renter families in New Orleans know too well, as the same happened for Hurricane Katrina. Plenty of New Orleanians didn’t even get a notice—instead they found out via TV that they would not be able to return to their homes. This certainly was true for tenants of the city’s “Big Four” public housing projects, which were closed for good during Katrina even though many of them collected no floodwaters.