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“Compassionate” Strategies of Managing Homelessness: Post-Revanchist Geographies in San Francisco

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After almost 30 years of Federal retraction from anti-poverty initiatives, many American cities have been left with the dual burden of intensified poverty and far fewer resources to combat the problem. At the same time, such devolution has afforded cities the authority to forge poverty policy at the local level, such that the familiar neoliberal imperatives of state retraction and the mobilization of territory for capitalist expansion are frequently tempered by more progressive political imperatives at the local scale. What has thus emerged is a deeply ambivalent policy landscape, of which “kinder and gentler” poverty management strategies are a central feature. Using the example of a recent homeless program in San Francisco, “Care Not Cash”, this paper argues that such poverty management strategies, while less punitive than their revanchist predecessors, nonetheless introduce a new set of exclusions to the service delivery system, many of which are obscured by the language of compassion. In order to illustrate those new exclusions, I describe the city's homeless geographies—the public spaces, shelters, service sites, and housing models—that have been produced and reconfigured according to a logic of managing homelessness through the provision of care.
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Keywords: General Assistance; San Francisco; homeless shelter; homelessness

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of City and Regional Planning, University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA;, Email: [email protected]

Publication date: 01 March 2009

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