Welsh Carroll, Megan, Flanigan, Shawn, and Gutierrez III, Nicolas (2022). “Black lives experiencing homelessness matter: Perspectives on policing from unsheltered people in San Diego.” Public Integrity.

This paper examines racialized encounters with the police from the perspectives of people experiencing homelessness in San Diego, California in 2020. By some estimates, homelessness doubled in San Diego during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. We conducted a survey of (n = 244) and interviews with (n = 57) homeless San Diegans during initial shelter-in-place orders, oversampling for Black respondents, whose voices are often under-represented despite high rates of homelessness nationally. Our respondents reported high rates of police contact, frequent lack of respect; overt racism, sexism, and homophobia; and a failure to offer basic services during these encounters. Centering our Black respondents’ experiences of criminalization and racism in what Clair calls “criminalized subjectivity,” we develop a conceptual framework that brings together critical theoretical perspectives on the role of race in the governance of poverty and crime. When people experiencing extreme poverty face apathy, disrespect, and discrimination from police—as our data show—the result is a reluctance to seek services and to engage with outreach when offered. This reinforces stereotypes of unhoused people as not “wanting” help or “choosing” to be homeless. We reflect on these findings and our framework for envisioning a system of public safety that supports and cares for—rather than punishes—the most vulnerable members of our society. (Public Integrity website)

Flanigan, Shawn and Welsh, Megan (2020). “Unmet needs of individuals experiencing homelessness near San Diego waterways: The roles of displacement and overburdened service systems.” Journal of Health and Human Services Administration, 43(2): 105-130.

Homelessness is among the most urgent crises facing the United States. In addition to tents or sleeping bags on urban sidewalks, many people experiencing homelessness exist outside of public view, along rivers and other waterways, and elsewhere “out in nature.” This paper explores reasons individuals live near waterways, specific health and human service needs of this population, and why these needs remain largely unmet. We conducted in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 84 individuals experiencing homelessness, 56 of whom were currently residing or had previously resided near the San Diego River or in nearby canyons, as well as seven key informant interviews with homelessness services and environmental conservation organizations. Our findings reveal that people live near urban waterways for several reasons, including the competing influences of systems designed to ameliorate the impacts of homelessness, such as criminal justice systems, public health systems, and the emergency shelter system. (ResearchGate link)

Related Academic Presentations

“Black Lives Experiencing Homelessness Matter: Perspectives on Policing from Unsheltered People in San Diego.” Megan Welsh, Nicolas Gutierrez III, and Shawn Flanigan. Society for the Study of Social Problems, virtual convening due to COVID-19 pandemic, August 4-7, 2021.

“Black Lives Experiencing Homelessness Matter: Perspectives of Policing and Other Institutional Interactions from African Americans Experiencing Homelessness in San Diego.” Shawn Flanigan, Nicolas Gutierrez III, and Megan Welsh. PA Theory Network Conference, virtual convening due to COVID-19 pandemic, June 3-6, 2021.

“Black Lives Experiencing Homelessness Matter: Perspectives on Policing from Unsheltered People in San Diego.” Nicolas Gutierrez III. San Diego State University Student Research Symposium, virtual convening due to COVID-19 pandemic, March 19-20, 2021.

“Using Research to Drive Homeless Policy: Partnerships Between Universities and the Homeless System of Care.” Nicole Blumenfeld, Shawn Flanigan, Kris Kuntz, and Megan Welsh. San Diego Housing Federation Annual Conference, San Diego, CA, October 5-9, 2020.

“Homelessness, health, and the natural environment: The hygiene and sanitation practices and survival strategies of unhoused people dwelling near the San Diego River.” Shawn Flanigan, Matthew Verbyla and Megan Welsh. Annual Meeting of the American Society of Criminology, San Francisco, CA, November 13-16, 2019.

“Water, sanitation and hygiene for people experiencing homelessness: A transdisciplinary approach for developing sustainable solutions for unhoused individuals.” Shawn Flanigan, Mirelle Garcia, Natalie Mladenov, Matthew E. Verbyla and Megan Welsh. Fall 2019 American Chemical Society National Meeting and Exhibition, San Diego, CA, August 25-29 2019.

“Homelessness and the natural environment: An examination of the hygiene and sanitation practices and survival strategies of unhoused people dwelling near waterways in San Diego, California.” Shawn Flanigan and Megan Welsh. 69th Annual Meeting of the Society for the Study of Social Problems, New York, NY, August 9-11, 2019.

“Homeless encampments and waterways: interdisciplinary potential for research and solutions.” Jose Calderon, Marina Chavez, Shawn Flanigan, Mireille Garcia, Ryan Sinclair, Matthew Verbyla, and Megan Welsh. 61st Annual Conference of the Western Social Science Association, San Diego, CA, April 24-27, 2019.