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Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin

Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin: The Sociospatial Exclusion of Homeless People

Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 194
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  • Book Info
    Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin
    Book Description:

    Los Angeles, California, and Berlin, Germany, have been dubbed "homeless capitals" for having the largest homeless populations of their respective countries. InDown and Out in Los Angeles and Berlin, Jürgen von Mahs provides an illuminating comparative analysis of the impact of social welfare policy on homelessness in these cities. He addresses the opportunity of people to overcome--or "exit"--homelessness and shows how Berlin, with its considerable social and economic investment for assisting its homeless has been as unsuccessful as Los Angeles.Drawing on fascinating ethnographic insights, von Mahs shows how homeless people in both cities face sociospatial exclusion-legal displacement for criminal activities, poor shelters in impoverished neighborhoods, as well as market barriers that restrict reintegration. Providing a necessary wake-up call,Down and Out in Los Angeles and Berlinaddresses the critical public policy issues that can produce effective services to improve homeless people's chances for a lasting exit.

    eISBN: 978-1-4399-0828-0
    Subjects: Sociology, Population Studies

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Preface
    (pp. vii-x)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  5. Commonly Used Abbreviations
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  6. 1 Different Welfare Regimes, Similar Outcomes? The Impact of Public Policy on Homeless People’s Exit Chances in Berlin and Los Angeles
    (pp. 1-25)

    Homelessness is a complex societal condition that has proliferated over the past three decades in most industrialized nation-states of the global north. Moreover, nations’ homeless populations have become increasingly diverse, more closely reflecting the poverty populations inhabiting these countries. It is commonly understood that homelessness in industrialized nation-states is a function of the complicated interplay between individual risk factors and broader structural root causes, including economic restructuring and ensuing marginality, demographic changes, and a shortage of affordable housing. Such factors, experts agree, also function as substantial barriers toward overcoming homelessness, because highly stigmatized homeless people face particular obstacles in overcoming...

  7. 2 Homeless Spaces, Homeless Lives: Using Ethnography to Assess Homeless People’s Life Courses and Exit Chances in Berlin
    (pp. 26-45)

    Having provided a cursory overview of the different contexts of homelessness in Germany and the United States and highlighted some of the weaknesses in our contemporary understanding of the impact of policy on homeless people’s lives in Berlin, I continue in this chapter by introducing the methodology that underlay my empirical research in Berlin, the study locations, and the people I met and interviewed in such places. I describe why and how I employed a “multiperspectival” research approach that looks at the issues through both a “top-down” context analysis and a “bottom-up” ethnographic research strategy, and then I introduce the...

  8. 3 Not Allowed: Legal Exclusion, Human Rights, and Global Capital
    (pp. 46-68)

    Perhaps the most pressing need a homeless person has is to generate income to ensure his or her basic survival. Income, however derived, is an important component of stabilizing homeless people’s lives en route to, ideally, overcoming homelessness. In this chapter, I demonstrate how in Los Angeles and, to a lesser extent, in Berlin, insufficient public cash assistance forces many, if not most, homeless people to resort to informal material survival strategies. Much strategies are frequently met with deliberate spatial exclusion by public and/or private security through legal means in the form of displacement, deportation, and prosecution of fare dodging....

  9. 4 Not Wanted: Containment, Warehousing, and Service Exclusion
    (pp. 69-95)

    If, as demonstrated in the previous chapter, homeless people and some of their survival strategies are deliberately excluded from the commercial city center, what spaces remain for them? Do homeless people in Berlin, like their peers in Los Angeles, find themselves contained in deprived service ghettos? After providing evidence for the impact of the spatial organization of homeless service and shelter provision in Los Angeles on homeless people and their life chances, in this chapter I reveal the results of my analysis of the geographic organization of Berlin’s homeless service infrastructure, which suggests that there are, indeed, similarities to the...

  10. 5 Not Needed: Market Exclusion, Exit Strategies, and the Specter of Neoliberalism
    (pp. 96-120)

    It is not difficult to appreciate that the previously discussed forms of legal and service exclusion had an adverse impact on the respondents’ immediate life circumstances and thus inevitable consequences for their ability to accomplish their long-term goals of securing housing and employment. In this chapter, I detail respondents’ experiences with trying to find shelter and jobs, revealing primarily negative results with regard to employment but slightly better outcomes in terms of housing. Through a mix of assisted and unassisted search efforts, more than half of the respondents—most of them with regular life courses—found housing within one year,...

  11. 6 Sociospatial Exclusion of Homeless People: Comparative Perspective
    (pp. 121-139)

    The foregoing empirical chapters provide evidence for three distinct yet interrelated trajectories of exclusion that pertain to homeless people’s immediate survival strategies to generate income (legal exclusion) and find shelter and housing (service exclusion) as well as their long-term exit strategies to find residential stability and economic self-sufficiency (market exclusion). In this concluding chapter, I use the evidence from the previous chapters to propose a model of sociospatial exclusion, explain how it works, apply it to important contemporary theoretical discussions, and suggest ways to surmount such exclusion.

    Specifically, I show how sociospatial exclusion, despite some variation across and within countries...

  12. Postscript
    (pp. 140-142)

    I often think back to the sunny Saturday morning in October 1993 when I first ventured into Skid Row with my classmates. In fact, to this day I use a virtual field trip to downtown Los Angeles in some of my classes, roughly following the path Professor Jennifer Wolch took that day, with the goal of generating a similar response in my classroom. It works every time, for one reason—homelessnessshouldshock us. It should make us uncomfortable. It should make us feel guilty.

    The research described in this book, like many ethnographic studies before it, demonstrates very clearly...

  13. APPENDIX 1: Biographical Sketches of Respondents in Berlin
    (pp. 143-152)
  14. APPENDIX 2: Key Informants
    (pp. 153-158)
  15. Notes
    (pp. 159-168)
  16. References
    (pp. 169-182)
  17. Index
    (pp. 183-191)
  18. Back Matter
    (pp. 192-192)