International Journal of Drug Policy - 2014

Volume 25 Issue 3 May 2014

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630 P.J. Davidson, M. Howe / International Journal of Drug Policy 25 (2014) 624–632 Haight is always going to be funky"). Worse still, this meant the enforcement arms of local government—from the police through to Commissions and Departments with the authority to accept or deny plans to locate social service agencies—were also 'failing' to see the Haight solely as an upper-middle class residential area, and were responding to the demands of home-owning and housed residents as just one of a number of legitimate voices. As a consequence, in the tone and words of at least some of those who opposed HYA's proposed move, both at the Prop. I meeting and as covered by Nevius in the San Francisco Chronicle, we see (as Shaw (2006) saw in her work on needle exchange in Massachusetts) a kind of 'victimhood' being expressed. Complaints of being "under siege" by the homeless; of police failure to respond to complaints about the presence of homeless; and that "City Hall has decided the Haight is always going to be funky" all come across as expressions of perceived loss of control over one's environment due to the acts of external forces. Our data suggests that in response to this sense of loss of con- trol, at least some residents of the streets to the south of Haight Street had gone beyond the responses to 'undesirable neighbours' described in the NIMBY literature, and were engaged in what we have come to call 'defensive place-making'. By this, we mean efforts to carve out a 'separate' neighbourhood or enclave from within a larger area, and by doing so limit who can speak for the new space and hence what the material future of the space will be—what services and/or people are 'appropriate' for the 'new' space. By 'defensive', we mean as a response to a situation where those engaged feel the responses normally available to them have failed—in this case, the exercise of social capital to induce the state and its agencies to exclude, remove, or at least repress and control, a less-well resourced group of citizens. In some respects this concept reflects aspects of the broader scholarship on American responses to perceived social disorder—the 'gated community', for example, is also 'defensive' in the sense used above, and is also about responding to percep- tions of social disorder by creating a space in which a deliberately limited set of people are able to define who and what 'belongs' (Low, 2003). However in our usage, we are primarily interested in rhetorical place making in already extant communities, rather than the planned and literally gated places of gated communities. In our data, defensive place making involved two components: engaging in boundary making, and engaging in efforts to more 'strongly classify' the space. With respect to the first of these, the geographer Doreen Massey (1995) sees boundaries primarily as a social construct which "are one means of organizing social space. They are, or may be, part of the process of place-making" (Massey, 1995, p. 68, original emphasis). In many of the narratives of those opposed to HYA's proposed move, we see an articula- tion of a 'place' which is different from 'that place over there': for example, the insistence that despite being a single block from the busy Haight Street commercial strip, that the neighbourhood was "quiet and peaceful"; or despite the US Census data showing just over 90% of the Haight's population to be aged between 18 and 64, that the neighbourhood was "full of small children and the elderly". As noted above, many of the anti-HYA speakers intro- duced themselves in terms of what street and block they lived on (for example "I live on the sixteen hundred block of Waller"). In combination, we suggest these speakers are engaged in a kind of boundary making, not so much in the sense of formally draw- ing lines on a map but in the sense of defining the characteristics which make 'this place' different from 'that place over there', as well as identifying specific locations that are part of 'this place' and hence, collectively, identifying at least roughly where 'this place' might be said to be (see Fig. 1 for the approximate bounds of the area defined in this way by speakers at the Prop. I meet- ing). Secondly, Massey takes up (Sibley, 1992, p. 115) on the notion of "strongly and weakly classified spaces": Generally, strongly classified spaces will also be strongly framed, in that there is a concern with separation and order, as there is, for example, in many middle-class suburbs. Weak framing would suggest more numerous and more fluid relation- ships between people and the built environment that occur with strong framing· · · Using this schema, it is possible to see how space contributes to the social construction of the outsider. . .I would argue, therefore, that there is a connection between strong classification of space and the rejection of social groups who are non-conforming (Massey, 1995, p. 74). In their complaints about the activities of the homeless, such as defecation, sleeping, fighting, and drinking, housed residents are in essence complaining about the fact that, in Massey and Sibley's language, the neighbourhood is awash with the "numerous and · · · fluid relationships between people and the built environment" which characterize a weakly classified space. In their complaints about the 'undesirable' activities of the homeless, these housed residents are also articulating their desire for an environment where the 'appropriate activities' for the place are far more tightly constrained; where activities which housed residents would them- selves conduct in private spaces (such as defecation, drinking, and fighting) could not or would not happen in public spaces. In this light, the contestation over space and service provision in neighbourhoods such as the Haight becomes one of residents wanting to create (or re-create, if one looks at it from the per- spective of pre-1930s history) a 'strongly classified space' where the range of activities which are able to take place in public are more tightly constrained. In order to establish such a space how- ever, the residents of the blocks to the south of Haight Street first needed to carve out a 'new' neighbourhood, one where those who had pre-extant narratives (and the not-inconsiderable weight of history) about the Haight as a refuge for the weird, the wonder- ful, and the outcast, could simply be excluded as 'outsiders' with no legitimate voice in the newly defined community ("do you live here?"). Given this process of boundary making and reclassification, it is unsurprising that the news that a needle exchange and service for homeless youth was planning to move almost to the geographic centre of this newly emerging area caused such visceral reaction. The proposed move challenged the boundary making, by bringing an organization with strong ties to the narrative of the Haight as a place for all to the centre of a space being set up to exclude that same narrative. The proposed move also challenged attempts to redefine the area as a strongly classified space, as HYA's arrival would bring with it both a population (homeless youth) and a range of activities (handing out needles for drug use; allowing young people to stand on the pavement outside the service smoking cigarettes) which would broaden the 'acceptable' range of activities and remake or reinforce the area as a weakly classified space notable for its fluidity and transience. Conclusion Many if not most of the specific issues raised in the Prop. I meeting are familiar from the existing literature on NIMBYism and services for people who use drugs. As just one example, Smith (2010), describing opposition to a methadone clinic in Toronto, Canada, documents similar concerns being expressed about ser- vices being 'dumped' in neighbourhoods (p. 862), the physical disorder of garbage, vomiting, and defecation (pp. 863–864), the intimidating nature of service users (p. 864), and attacks on the validity of the methods being used by the service (p. 863).

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