Against the Grain

Homeless Encampments and the Logics of Containment

Large homeless encampments are sometimes dismantled, at times tolerated, and in some cases legalized. What accounts for the different ways in which local authorities treat homeless encampments, and how do camp residents view their situation? Chris Herring discusses the administrative logics of homeless seclusion as well as the adaptive strategies of campers.

  • dirk

    As this program broadcasts, about 12:30 pm, 10/17, a homeless encampment at 35th St. & Peralta St. in West Oakland is being transformed into a city sanction encampment, called by the city Compassionate Communities. The encampment residents have been surveyed and are in support of this transformation. Porta potties have been brought in, garbage containers provided(which the city will empty), protective barriers are being established around the encampment, and the whole site is being steam cleaned. All residents will be back in the new encampment by the end of the day. By the end of 6 months the city, working with the county, has guaranteed that all current residents will have been provided real housing, which, again, the residents are in agreement with. This is a first in Oakland and if successful will hopefully be a model for other encampments.

  • eli_damon

    I see this as an aspect of a more general trend of restricting the use of public space. Traditionally, public spaces served many functions (commerce, socializing, political activity, travel by various modes, play, and sometimes eating, sleeping, urinating, etc.) But over the past 100 years or so, we’ve driven these activities from public space into private space. In private space, these activities are less accessible, less convenient, less flexible, more subject to control by property owners, insurance companies, etc., and less conducive to forming relationships and strengthening communities.

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