Presentation at the Urban Affairs Association Conference on BIDs and Homelessness
PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARASITES: HOW BUSINESS IMPROVEMENT DISTRICTS CRIMINALIZE HOMELESSNESS. IN PROGRESS. WITH JEFF GARNAND.
Over the past three decades, Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) have proliferated across North America and more recently abroad. Over this same period time local anti-homeless laws have expanded making it illegal to sit, rest, or ask for money in public spaces. While recent studies have explained how these public-private partnerships engage in advocacy to pass such anti-homeless laws, we know little about how these organizations enforce such laws once they are in place and the impacts they have on the unhoused. Drawing on an analysis of 3.9 million of 311 and 911 call records, administrative data, and interviews with BID and city officials we elaborate how BIDs criminalize homelessness in the city of San Francisco. We argue that BIDs, which are private entities, use their publicly granted powers at the expense of their host, to draw increased policing, sanitation, and even social service resources from the city, displace homelessness into surrounding neighborhoods, all while advocating for costly policies that criminalize poverty and restrict public space across the entire municipality.