The Challenge of Homelessness to Spatial Practices

Abstract: In this article, Lefebvre’s theory of space is utilized to understand the competing patterns in the use of public space by two different groups: the general public and homeless people as a sub-group. The general public perceives public space as distinctly separate from private space while the pri-vate space of homeless people is public space. This creates a dichotomy in their respective relationships to public space and their competing claims to their respective ways of using it. Despite the fact that homeless people only have public space at their dis-posal, legislative measures and administrative proce-dures—such as park bylaws which prohibit setting up temporary abode on parkland—are used to force them to abandon public space. Beyond the realm of legal regimes is the issue of representational space where homeless people are excluded from public space, which is seen as a sphere of consumption and enjoyment. Redevelopment plans (i.e., gentrification processes), are a prime example of a city’s repre-sentation of space. The reality of propertylessness means that homeless persons are forced to live their lives at the mercy of property owners. In an attempt to maintain the spatial practices of the housed majority, the city aggressively enacts a system of control which places homeless persons in a situation of constantly transgressing the legal regime that threatens their practices of survival. 


Publication Date: