A Home Without a Home: Vehicle Residency and Settled Bias
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In 2018, over half of the people who slept in public space across Seattle/King County (Washington, USA) inhabited an automobile. However, the disaffiliation and criminalization of vehicle-homes in efforts to end homelessness causes vulnerable people to fall between the cracks of social service provision and legal representation. Based on nine years of field work in Seattle, this doctoral dissertation shows how people use vehicles as affordable housing, a behavioral strategy of mobile sheltering that tends to be adaptive within a social and biological environment of constrained options. Considering vehicle residency through an analogy of mobile sheltering reveals a historic pattern of similar displacement and othering based on mobility. Settled societies have produced private resources and spaces by unsettling otherwise emplaced people and maintaining their unsettlement through an anti-“nomadic” stigma. This research documents a “settled bias” that labels perceived “nomadic” behaviors as aberrant to reinforce a hierarchy of settlement. Correlating this and past research of “nomadic” communities shows how a “weaponized mobility” tends to disconnect and obscure the social responsibility of settled groups from their unsettlement of displaced people. This four-field, applied anthropological study closes with a set of conclusions and recommendations for communities, service providers and policy makers to include vehicle residents in social support.
- Anthropology