The University of Texas at Austin
  • Law students assist devastated Gulf Coast

    By Tara Chandler
    Published: Feb. 21, 2008

    Nearly three years after Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast region communities are still struggling, but students from the University of Texas School of Law found a way to offer assistance in a unique way.

    Fifty law students volunteered in the Gulf Coast in January, providing assistance to organizations addressing residents’ post-Hurricane Katrina legal needs.

    “Students were clearly moved by the region’s continued devastation and the unmet legal needs of low-income residents in the area,” said Eden Harrington, director of the William Wayne Justice Center for Public Interest Law. “The volunteer work was challenging and rewarding, and we plan to arrange similar trips in the future.”

    Two groups of students from the university traveled to the Gulf Coast. The Thurgood Marshall Legal Society organized 19 students to volunteer in Louisiana while members of the Justice Center organized a second group of 31 students to travel to the Gulfport, Miss., area.

    Some of the students volunteered with the Turkey Creek Community Initiatives, an organization working to conserve and restore the historic community of Turkey Creek.

    The group helped with a project called “Ground Truthing,” which involved surveying every plot of land in the 17,000-acre Turkey Creek watershed, according to first-year law student Dave Mervis.

    “Our group worked on compiling binders of basic tax information of every plot of land in the watershed,” Mervis said. “We also helped draft the survey that will be used by volunteers who will go out on foot and detail the nature and condition of every piece of property on every lot in the area.”

    The purpose of the project, first-year student Eddie Valdespino explained, is to secure funding for people to rebuild their homes by determining whether they can be labeled as historic or not because historic sites are entitled to extra government subsidies.

    “My group was setting the groundwork for this project by researching all of the individual lots and houses in the community through their tax records and creating the field manuals that later volunteers will use to do the actual surveying,” Valdespino said.

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