"There's No One Closer to K Than Homeless People": The Role of Class and Aesthetics in the Exclusion of Individuals Experiencing Homelessness from Kalamazoo College's Campus
Van Heest, Allie
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This study interrogates the relationship between Kalamazoo College and individuals experiencing homelessness in Kalamazoo, Michigan, with a particular focus on the roles played by the built environment, campus security, and the class disparities between the college and surrounding communities in shaping the nature of this relationship. The author utilized qualitative research methods and conducted seventeen interviews with a variety of stakeholders, including: individuals experiencing homelessness, the director of a local resource agency and day shelter, and Kalamazoo College students, faculty, staff, administrators, and security staff. Neo-Marxian Urban Theory provides the conceptual framework for this study; the relationship between the college and individuals experiencing homelessness is analyzed within the context of the social/spatial dialectic. The data suggest that the institution does enforce the removal of individuals experiencing homelessness from campus, despite the dominant ideology of social justice ideals within the campus community. The exclusion of individuals experiencing homelessness is justified through the taken-for-granted assumption that such individuals pose a threat to the safety of the campus community. Ultimately, the (re)production of Kalamazoo College as an upper-classed environment, and the practice of excluding individuals perceived to be homeless from campus create a context in which many stakeholders in the relationship experience each other with suspicion and anger.
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