These New Orleans Residents Are Still Trying To Go Home

In the decade after Katrina, many residents have rebuilt destroyed homes; others have decided to relocate elsewhere. Yet there are still plenty of people who are still trying to return home.

News Story (Louisiana, Mississippi)

Bryce Covert
August 29, 2015

Tags: Disaster Recovery, Hurricane Katrina

Organizations mentioned/involved: Southeast Louisiana Legal Services (SLLS)


Many New Orleanian homeowners who have never had to worry about formal paper trails are struggling through the same predicament. Legal aid organizations are swamped with housing cases like Duplessis’s.

“Our housing advocacy work and legal work…kind of exploded after Hurricane Katrina,” Laura Tuggle, civil legal aid attorney and executive director of the Southeast Louisiana Legal Services, said. According to Tuggle, out of about 140 legal services organizations in the whole country, hers alone did more than a quarter of all probate cases — those related to housing ownership — in 2008. Even now, her organization operates a weekly clinic on wills and successions that has six to eight appointments a week.

This, she says, has been the biggest problem facing homeowners trying to get home after the storm. “One thing Katrina really taught us and opened our eyes to is the importance of people clearing title when someone has passed away in their family,” or in other words making sure the legal paperwork is completed to formally pass on ownership. Many people in New Orleans have been living in the city for generations, informally passing houses down between them. “It was just this tremendous barrier for folks to be able to access any kind of rebuilding assistance or even insurance proceeds or FEMA help,” she explained.