Document Type

Undergraduate Research Paper

Publication Date

Spring 2022

Paper Status



Across urban centers within the United States, the proliferation of houseless people within the last thirty years has become an increasingly central concern in urban management. Capital accumulation and its movement within the city has created a conflicting need to both enhance the market value of space and ameliorate the needs of its most vulnerable population. Within this conflict, major U.S cities have increasingly turned to directly or indirectly banning individuals from public space as a strategy to limit the visibility of their houseless population. This paper will examine how spatial banishment is utilized in Seattle and Portland - two cities with reputations as some of the most progressive centers in the country, as well as leaders in the use of spatial banishment. In this paper I ask: Why has spatial banishment become the leading approach for managing homelessness in U.S cities in the 21st century? How has this approach fueled incarceration? In this paper, I will draw on legal, political science, and geographic scholarship concerned with the evolution of city management under neoliberalism and detailing the on the ground practices of cities attempting to manage homelessness. I argue that without being able to outright target houseless people for their status, spatial banishment has re-emerged in popularity for its ability to provide short term solutions and to circumvent existing laws protecting the rights of houseless people. Reliance on spatial banishment has additionally risen alongside increased police presence and broken windows policing, in turn expanding the scope of incarceration.


Winner of the 2022 long-form paper prize