Spatial Patterns, Utility, and Limitations of Volunteered Reports of Urban Homeless Campsites in Portland, Oregon

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Professional Geographer

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Homelessness is a complex and diverse social issue that affects many urban areas in the United States. Robust knowledge of how and where homeless individuals subsist is essential for an assessment of the granular spatiotemporal context of homelessness in a given locale. Common means for surveying homeless rest sites are resource intensive and conducted infrequently, which warrants investigations into complementary approaches. In this article, we examine the spatial patterns of homeless campsites in Portland, Oregon, and their relationship to urban features based on a three-year data set of reports volunteered by members of the public. Our quantitative analysis employs a combination of spatial analysis, statistical methods, and cartographic mapping to determine prevailing spatial patterns and proximity relationships. In that context, we assess the characteristics of the volunteered data in terms of their suitability for capturing expected local patterns of homeless campsites. The data indicate concentrations of reported campsites and significant spatial proximity relationships between campsite locations, zoning, transit stops, and homelessness support services. Our findings evidence the utility of the volunteered data for the analysis of urban homeless campsite locations on an annual basis. We further discuss the limitations of the data and provide suggestions for improvements and future research.


Copyright 2022 by American Association of Geographers.



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