Poster Paper: A Geospatial Analysis of the Criminalization of Homelessness in the United States of America

Friday, March 9, 2018
Burkle Lobby, First Floor (Burkle Family Building at Claremont Graduate University)

*Names in bold indicate Presenter

Elizabeth Rowen, Claremont Graduate University

In the past few decades, the amount of municipal codes and ordinances designed

to prevent life-sustaining behaviors from occurring for people who are homeless have

become more prevalent. This phenomenon is often referred to as the “criminalization of

homelessness” because the laws are designed to move, hide, or evict homeless people

from public spaces, and often include harsh punishments for violation. This project

attempts to understand whether or not the theory of policy diffusion can be useful for

explaining the magnitude, spread, and increased use of municipal ordinances that

criminalize homelessness in U.S. cities. In this paper, I pose the following research

question: does policy diffusion theory help to explain the increased breadth (prevalence)

and depth (magnitude) of municipal ordinances criminalizing homelessness in U.S.

cities? I argue that policy diffusion theory does provide a compelling explanation for how

and why municipal ordinances that criminalize homelessness have increased and spread

geographically across cities in the U.S. in recent years. In order to test the saliency of this

argument, I performed a hotspot analysis in ArcMap. I found that, when considering both

the number of cities in the U.S. using ordinances to criminalize homelessness and the

geographic concentration of these cities, the states of California and Florida contain hot

spots, indicating that policy diffusion may be occurring in these areas.