The everyday geography of the homeless in Kansas City


Homelessness in the United States is a multifaceted problem that appears to be growing. However, very little is known about the geography of homelessness. This paper will document the daily lives of the homeless in Kansas City, Missouri, within the milieu of the emergency shelter. The purpose of this study continues in the humanistic tradition, which is attempting to restore human subjectivity to a field considered to have been dominated for too long by scientific objectivism. Fieldwork took place in Kansas City from 1988 to 1993. Two types of shelters were identified: street and transitional. The street shelters primarily served individual men and were best characterized by the rescue mission. Transitional shelters, on the other hand, catered for men and the more recent additions to the homeless population, single women and families with children. The spatial activity of the homeless was constrained as a result of living in a shelter. One typical response to homelessness was apathy and depression. After approximately 30 days in a shelter, a homeless person often underwent a change in physical appearance and activity. This shelterization meant that homeless men and women became increasingly isolated and conformed to the view of themselves imposed by their fellow homeless, the caretakers, and society at large. Homelessness is more than simply lacking a roof over one's head; it is a process of institutionalization into the milieu of the emergency shelter. Shelter facilities in the US are transforming into long-term caretaking institutions.


Geography, Geology, and Planning

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Geografiska Annaler, Series B: Human Geography