Community-based organizations (CBOs), especially those that serve vulnerable and marginalized communities, are critical fixtures in the daily lives of their clients. When disaster strikes, nonprofit CBOs fill needed gaps and extend their roles in response and recovery activities. While studies of organizational response and cross-sector collaboration demonstrate a lack of disaster planning within many CBOs, few of these studies focus on CBOs’ disaster experiences—specifically of those that serve vulnerable and marginalized groups such as the homeless. In addressing this gap, I argue that homeless service organizations (HSOs) experience compounded vulnerability because of social and structural factors that place them in a weakened position during disaster. Not only do structural conditions weaken the ability of these organizations to meet the needs of a growing client base, but the marginalized status of their clients also requires unique considerations for these organizations during disaster, resulting in compounded vulnerability. Using the 2013 Boulder Floods as a context in which to examine these processes, I draw on over seventy hours of participant observation and data from 14 semi-structured interviews with staff members from homeless adult service organizations. Finally, and as part of a larger ongoing research project, I offer disaster preparedness and response recommendations for nonprofits and CBOs serving homeless populations.

Kathleen Tierney (Chair)
Leslie Irvine
Liesel Ritchie