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Hobos, Hustlers, and BackslidersHomeless in San Francisco$
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Teresa Gowan

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780816648696

Published to Minnesota Scholarship Online: August 2015

DOI: 10.5749/minnesota/9780816648696.001.0001

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(p.283) Conclusion
Hobos, Hustlers, and Backsliders

Teresa Gowan

University of Minnesota Press

This concluding chapter discusses the homelessness problem in the United States in general and in San Francisco in particular. Countries have adopted different strategies in response to global neoliberalism, but America’s bottom-line response to the poverty and despair of those abandoned by footloose capital has been to reconceive this now massive surplus population as criminals and incompetents. The violence, both symbolic and all too concrete, of the incarceration strategy was highly visible in homeless San Francisco, where imprisonment and homelessness had become a mutually reinforcing nexus. On the symbolic level, the revolving door between imprisonment and homelessness supercharged the moral discourse on poverty, spurring a defiant celebration of deviance and marginality. The defiance of the homeless hustlers demonstrates how the country’s emphasis on incarceration over integration, on punishment over rehabilitation, works a double function. While incarceration may be the cornerstone of contemporary U.S. social policy, highly dramatized force makes for a volatile form of social control.

Keywords:   homelessness, United States, San Francisco, neoliberalism, poverty, imprisonment, deviance, marginality, social policy, social control

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