Establishing Social Inclusion in the Street Community

As towns and cities continue to modernize and grow, there becomes a larger gap between the homeless and the rest of the population, with tensions arising particularly around public spaces. Oft forgotten during infrastructure upgrades to cities, homeless people around the world have had the focus of the upgrades shifted to them, but not in a supportive manner. Shari Daya and Nicola Wilkins, from the University of Cape Town, explain how, “homeless people [are] subject to greater surveillance and harsher, more punitive exclusionary measures as city spaces are actively regenerated and ‘improved’” (Daya and Wilkins 2013). Seen as the root of social problems with their deemed unacceptable behaviour by law enforcement, the homeless community is heavily scrutinized as cities try to renovate. This is prevalent in the context of public space, “by redefining what is acceptable behaviour in public space, by in effect annihilating the spaces in which the homeless must live, these laws seek simply to annihilate homeless people themselves” (Daya and Wilkins 2013). The way governing bodies deal with homeless populations is often by removing the space where they can operate. This causes them to move elsewhere, temporarily solving the problem in the original location but creating it in a new location. This is how they try to ease the tensions created in public spaces.

As people living on the street try to find places of inclusion, utilization of public space becomes a main concern of cities trying to curb homelessness. The homeless community has been able to live using transgressive tactics, migrating from places such as underpasses, beaches, and other forgotten public areas. In New Zealand, homeless men use a public library as a public place they can gather to engage in social activities and as a place to rely on for safety (Daya and Wilkins 2013). In the United States, homeless men and women often utilize the public transit system for shelter and safety (Daya and Wilkins 2013). The space the homeless people are creating in both of these situations is a space of inclusion. At these spaces of inclusion, the homeless feel safer through relationships and emotional connections they established. Mainstream society does not help them, which in turn leads the homeless people believe that it is society’s fault.

Due to their transgressive nature, communities rarely understand that homeless people can indeed have feelings of “homesickness, disorientation and isolation” (Daya and Wilkins 2013). The main psychology behind these feelings resonates with being included in a group or society. While mainstream society rejects homeless people in most instances, they indeed create their own community through the public spaces provided. Thus, the public space design can have a large impact on whether an area is deemed inclusive. The space need not only be filled with accepting people, but also have a layout conducive of inclusive community interaction.

Creating a public space that is inclusive is a daunting challenge, but extremely important due to the positive effects it can have on a community. Thus, a concept of creating socially inclusive space is being incorporated by civil planners in their designs as cities look to continually grow to improve new community interactions.




Daya, S., & Wilkins, N. (2013). The body, the shelter, and the shebeen: An affective geography of homelessness in South Africa. Cultural Geographies, 357-378.