Finding Shelter in Denver: Multiple Regimes of Spatial Order and Multiple Coping Strategies
In attempting to understand how homeless individuals negotiate a growing phalanx of codes and ordinances variously intended to move them toward service providers and into shelters we utilized ethnographic methods. Talking to homeless injection drug users in Denver, CO, a city wherein sleeping with any protection against the elements in public has recently been outlawed, we found that shelters, due to mandated durations of stay and strictly enforced conditions of confinement were often considered undesirable places to be. Understanding this, it is unsurprising that homeless people resist this degree of control by continuing to seek alternative and often illegal places for shelter and attending to personal hygiene. Other findings prove both ironic and tragic. We learned that as part of an overall strategy for negotiating Denver’s regimes of spatial confinement often leads to increased drug use. A heavy nod numbs heroin users from the cold and rain. And methamphetamine addicts frequently increase dosages and usage in order to avoid the need for sleep altogether.