Using vehicles to challenge antisleeping ordinances

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Homeless people who sleep on city streets are subject to regulation practices that target their appearance, status, and behavior. Vehicle living affords a private sleeping area, yet occupants are still frequently cited for sleeping in public. The right to sleep has recently become controversial, as cities that do not provide adequate shelter cannot legally outlaw public sleeping. This article uses interviews, surveys, and municipal court trial data to present an ethnographic case study of the vehicle community in Santa Barbara, CA. Like many California coastal cities, the visible presence of homeless people is troubling to citizens, city officials, and tourists who seek unfettered access to beaches and shopping areas. Homeless people who sleep in these areas see their vehicles as essential for personal survival, as a way of escaping negative public attention, and as a way of arguing for social legitimacy.

Original Citation

Wakin, Michele. (2008). Using vehicles to challenge antisleeping ordinances. City and Community,7(4), 309-329. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1540-6040.2008.00269.x