UBC Theses and Dissertations

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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Sheltering the housing crisis : the contradictions of shelters in the neoliberal city Brown, Lauren Ann


Homelessness policies in the U.S. from the federal level to local level have consistently failed to end homelessness, and instead have played a key role managing and perpetuating crisis. This research delves into the normalization of shelters as a spatial and policy fix by exploring the decentralization of one shelter system in Salt Lake County, Utah. Engaging a grounded theory approach, this inquiry uses archival research, participant observation, and interviews to offer a multi-scalar analysis, considering both the perspectives of those who are negotiating the shelter system, and the policymakers and service providers responsible for creating it. With stated goals of displacement, dispersal, and containment, Utah’s processes and practices have a clear impact on the wellbeing of people without housing, effectively isolating and excluding them from urban space and resources, and further displacing an already displaced population. Utah’s efforts are a striking example of the historical failure of shelter and homelessness policy to create equitable outcomes that address the systemic causes of housing insecurity. There are broader implications in revealing the ways in which urban governments are managing the presence of people experiencing homelessness and the resultant stigmatization and criminalization of poverty.

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