Factors Influencing Homeless People's Perception and Use of Urban Space
AuthorValado, Martha Trenna
Committee ChairMendoza-Denton, Norma
MetadataShow full item record
PublisherThe University of Arizona.
RightsCopyright © is held by the author. Digital access to this material is made possible by the University Libraries, University of Arizona. Further transmission, reproduction or presentation (such as public display or performance) of protected items is prohibited except with permission of the author.
AbstractIn recent years, cities worldwide have employed various tactics to control homeless people's use of urban space. Yet such measures never fully accomplish their goal, because homeless people develop ways to adapt the hostile landscape. In so doing, they not only respond to tactics of spatial control but they also create their own conceptions of urban space that serve to compensate for the structural systems that fail or even punish them. Thus, just as legal categories of property ownership leave homeless people without access to private spaces, they in turn create their own concepts of ownership and continually seek to privatize public space. Whereas legal restrictions are passed that criminalize homelessness in order to protect housed urban residents' "quality-of-life," homeless people develop tactics to protect themselves from the dangers of street life. Just as municipal authorities remove various amenities and add deterrents to try to prevent the use of certain locations, homeless people are attracted and repelled by features that are often beyond the control of authorities. While social services are relocated to encourage either spatial dispersion or concentration, homeless people build internal support networks that often serve their short-term needs better than social services. In short, homeless people not only respond to spatial control tactics in a variety of ways but also create their own landscape that often frustrates attempts to control their use of space. Drawing on interviews with 60 homeless people in Tucson, Arizona, this dissertation attempts to shed light on both these facets of street life, revealing that homeless people constantly strategize to find or make private, safe, functional, comfortable, and supportive places for themselves in a landscape designed to exclude them. Findings indicate that restrictive urban polices aimed at controlling the movements and actions of street people are not only ineffective but also exacerbate the problem of homelessness. These policies have the greatest impact on newly homeless individuals, pushing them toward existing street community in order to access vital information and support networks.