Permanently Temporary: Homeless Encampment Removal in Washington, DC

Authors: Patrick Geiger*,
Topics: Urban Geography
Keywords: Homelessness, Homeless Encampments, Public Space, Right to the City
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: Committee Room, Omni, West
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Homelessness is not a new problem for American cities. There is a rich literature that examines both the structural causes of homelessness and how it is experienced by individuals. Geographers in particular have contributed to this literature by linking homelessness with broader themes of neoliberal governance, urban social justice, and the politics of public space. But despite decades of research, the problem of homelessness shows no signs of going away, and recent urban responses to homelessness show a continued lack of empathy for the homeless population. Similar to other cities, Washington, DC has pursued a policy of homeless encampment removal, justified through invocations of public health and safety. However, many encampments simply reappear in the same location hours after being cleared. To better understand the socio-spatial processes influencing the development and clearing of encampments, this paper will analyze qualitative data gathered through interviews with encampment residents and homeless service providers along with a spatial data that maps the location of homeless encampments in relation to shelters and other social services. Building on the existing literature surrounding homelessness and the right to the city, this paper will then examine the implications of encampment removals for both the residents of those encampments and for the city as a whole.

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