Chris Herring published a chapter on managing homelessness across public space and city shelters in the edited volume by John Flint and Ryan Powell (University of Sheffield) Class, Ethnicity, State: Putting Wacquant to Work.
On any given night, hundreds of thousands of Americans find themselves without a home and residing either outside on the streets or inside in a shelter. Yet, we know very little about why some go in and others stay out. This article examines the dynamic connection between these two primary spaces of homeless seclusion in the US metropolis through a case study of San Francisco: a city known for both its robust shelter system and large number of unsheltered homeless. The paper draws on an enactive ethnography living alongside those on the streets and in shelters, and an ethnography of the bureaucratic field working alongside policymakers, police officers, social workers, and community groups, to illustrate how state classifications and policies sort, propel, and repel sections of the poor into one space or another. The paper builds on and extends Wacquant’s underutilized conception of socio-spatial seclusion (2010) to elaborate how state regulations of physical space (shelter/street) work in consort to (re)produce distinctions in social space (deserving/undeserving) that both fuels inequality from below, while neutralizing poverty through invisibilization and de-politicization.