Chris Herring joined the Social Innovation Speaker Series on Tuesday, January 18th, 2022, to speak about his research on homelessness in San Francisco.
Chris is a postdoctoral fellow at Harvard’s Inequality in America Initiative and Assistant Professor of Sociology at UCLA. His research focuses on homelessness, housing, welfare, and criminal justice in US cities. His work has been published in the American Sociological Review, Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Sciences, Social Problems, City and Community, City, and numerous edited volumes. Chris’ forthcoming book, Cruel Streets, explains how San Francisco, a city at the vanguard of progressive urban politics, intensified punishment towards the unhoused amidst initiatives of criminal justice reform and shelter expansion.
In the past five years, the City of San Francisco has experienced rapid development of policy innovation in both welfare provision and criminal justice treatments of unsheltered homelessness. These innovations include: expansions of navigation center shelters and sanctioned encampments in gentrifying neighborhoods, a new Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, a new collaboration between police, sanitation, and public health agencies through its Healthy Streets Operation Center, a new anti-camping ban, and reforms to warrants and citations for the unhoused. Drawing on two-years of ethnographic research spending time both residing on the streets and the city’s shelters with those experiencing homelessness, as well as observations alongside police officers and social workers, Chris’s presentation will offer a ground-level perspective of these policies from varying perspectives. He also draws connections between how changes in welfare assistance have impacted criminalization and vice versa.
In spotlighting the positive improvements and negative impacts of these policy innovations, Chris puts forward a broader argument about how and why welfare and penal reforms addressing homelessness in progressive cities continue to coalesce in increasing punishment toward the unsheltered that undermine broader welfare provision. He will conclude by considering policy alternatives, as well as alternative frameworks researchers and scholars might use in relating penal and welfare state programs addressing poverty.
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