The geography of homelessness is often characterized as containment in marginalized spaces of cities or as placelessness necessitating continuous travel. These characterizations, which reflect discourses about 'the homeless' as an imagined deviant homogeneous group, have had substantial effects on policy formation and critiques of punitive turns in urban governance. Suggested policy responses frequently assume straightforward relationships between power/powerlessness and mobility/immobility binaries that do not appropriately portray actual mobility patterns of homeless individuals. Through focus groups and structured interviews, this paper examines the daily mobility of homeless adults in Long Beach, California, to identify the ways in which the everyday travel of homeless individuals compares with these 'imagined' characterizations and with national US household travel patterns. Results show that homeless mobility is highly spatially constrained and structured by sociocultural relations of stigmatization, economic productivity, and personal responsibility that are reflected in the operational conventions and institutional practices of transportation and social welfare systems. Nonetheless, during the course of a day, homeless individuals move among spaces where they experience varying levels of inclusion and exclusion, thus complicating static, homogeneous characterizations. This analysis contributes to both the urban transport and social geography literatures by demonstrating the value of combining sociocultural approaches to the study of mobility with more typical transportation geography analyses of individual travel behavior.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Geography, Planning and Development
- Environmental Science (miscellaneous)