You Have Seventy-Two Hours: How the City Complaint System Enables Criminalization of the Unsheltered Population
Imported from ProQuest Earl_ilstu_0092N_11216.pdf
The unsheltered population has been denigrated since the formation of the United States. This is true in a city I call Marinville, Illinois where the privatization paradigm, social stratification, and anti-homeless ordinances have contributed to the shutdown of at least five homeless encampments. Multiple times per week, law enforcement officials interact with the chronically unsheltered population and incarcerate individuals for petty ordinance violations. In our current regulatory system, city officials, police officers, and homeless service organizations (HSOs) all influence the unsheltered population’s lives, including options for social and spatial mobility. This thesis is based on multi-method research from 2016-2017: engaging in participant observation, conducting interviews, analyzing commentary on local news articles, surveys, and jail data. Stigmatization of the unsheltered population is evident in policing, city, and HSO cultures (although displayed differently), but the occupational structure and constraints of “public servanthood” for police officers and city officials enables criminalization of the unsheltered population. Moreover, the data reveals that “frequent flyers,” or those who interact with the police once per week or have been incarcerated twenty-four of more times over seven years, cost taxpayers $12,908 per year. Based on my evidence, providing housing for the frequent flyers is a more cost-effective and humane option than repetitive arrest and incarceration. Ultimately, I recommend greater public education, a switch to the “Housing First” model, implementation of mandatory homeless-specific trainings, utilization of the police-unsheltered population “best practices” flow-chart, increased access to social workers, city use of civil rights lawyers, sabbaticals, and inclusive shelter and day center expansion. These changes would be more effective in an ideological environment that is less oriented toward neoliberalism and more compassionate toward the unsheltered population.