Date of Award

Spring 2020


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Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA) in Critical GIS and Public Anthropology


Anthropology and Geography


Over the past four decades, the United States has seen an increase in the numbers of homeless. Upward of half a million people in the United States experience homelessness per night. This thesis discusses causes and conditions of homelessness in Spokane, Washington. Specifically, the thesis focuses on the causes of homelessness, the homeless people’s lived experiences on the street, their encounters with the medical establishments, and the public perception about them. Data was collected beginning in the summer of 2018. A total of twenty homeless individuals were interviewed. I also attended public events and forums where the issue of homelessness in the city was discussed and debated.

The findings indicated an entrenched society-wide misunderstanding about homelessness making helping the homeless daunting and costly. Society and those in power view them as individuals who inflicted poverty and wretchedness upon themselves, and even the homeless blame themselves. However, a more in-depth analysis indicates homelessness is structurally produced. Many of the interviewees were forced into homelessness because of family fractures, loss of employment, unaffordable housing, and untreated mental illness. Once they became homeless, they experienced hunger, physical and sexual violence, and many other societal brutalities. The majority felt discriminated by the medical establishment and were even denied services, although they had serious chronic medical issues. Maltreatment and neglect forced them into potentially unsafe health services. The lack of an institutionalized approach to help the homeless make their effort to find permanent shelter an uphill battle. The multiple levels of physical, psychological, and societal cruelties could be significantly reduced. However, the thesis discusses the continued neglect perpetrated by the various organizations attempting to serve the homeless. Spokane city’s policymakers and other stakeholders treat them as undeserving, thankless, and ungrateful. The thesis argues that the problem of homelessness can significantly be reduced when a poor-people-centric social policy is implemented. Through changes to unfair economic arrangements, Universal Basic Income (UBI), affordable housing, and Medicare for all, homelessness can become a distant memory.