The denial of the homeless society in urban spaces led to the development of a “not in my back yard (NIMBY)” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 183) attitude during the 1980s, that significantly increased people’s negative reactions towards the establishments of civic projects in neighborhoods. While NIMBYism is thought to be derived from communities’ selfish attitudes, Lyon-Callo suggests that a more complex principle leads society to exclude homeless people from their neighborhoods. He analyzes “how and why people organize opposition to shelter services” (2001, 186) through ethnographic investigation during the late 1990s taking the city of Northampton, Massachusetts as a case study. Brinegar’s article explores people’s resistance against the homeless society in the Phoenix area which “[decreases] neighborhoods aesthetics and threaten[s] to lower the status or desirability of an area” (Brinegar 2003, 62). Takahashi, like Brinegar and Lyon-Callo, studies the community’s responses against the establishment of services and shelters for the homeless in their neighborhoods, analyzing the communities’ political and economical solutions. He explores the NIMBY syndrome in three different areas of Los Angeles “analyzing published media accounts of the public response towards persons and facilities associated with homelessness […] during the 1990s” (Takahashi 1998, 106).
Northampton, MA in 1998 dealt with “nearly one hundred and fifty citizens [that] voiced concern” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 183) against the development of shelters in community areas. The community’s opposition towards homeless shelters in their neighborhoods attracted the attention of organizations, like the National Law Center on Homelessness and Poverty, which “argued that NIMBY efforts are the result of misinformation that could be remedied through education and communication” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 185). However, Lyon-Callo suggests that not only did the people’s selfishness and ignorance led to a NIMBY idea but that the political-economic context played an important role against the homeless population. Northampton citizens believed that the majority of the homeless population was alcoholic, drug addicts, mentally ill or criminals (Lyon-Callo 2001, 192) that threatened their conception of an idealized society. Homeless people were rejected due to “time-space circumstances” and as Takahashi discusses “as [an] inescapable dimension of capitalist social relationships” (1998, 124. The middle-class citizens began to realize the dangers presented by a homeless population that was taking over their neighborhood by sleeping in the sidewalks, on the parks, and breaking into houses. The community also “minded the fact that so much money was being put into this, what we considered an inadequate and inappropriate response to the plight of the homeless” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 195). It was simply charity; they were maintaining all those homeless without solving the needs of jobs and low income housing, like a Band-Aid on cancer.
After all those years of hard working, the antiquated population of Northampton had a difficult time surviving the economic changes that the city was experiencing. “I don’t like the fact that it’s becoming so expensive […] it’s not a town of modest means. [We] have to shop on the outskirts and we all hate that” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 197). Even the community members had problems adjusting the present changes and “once the new rich move[d] into the neighborhood and gentrify it, we won’t have any more social services placed here” (Lyon-Callo 2001, 197). Old timers were scared, in any moment they could be forced out of their houses, due to economic or political problems, becoming part of the homeless community due to system inequalities. Even in Los Angeles the homeless population was rejected by the communities. Homeless programs had the money for shelters and “public” services but idealized locations were constantly rejected instead the City wanted to “move the homeless population to a less visible location, where routine business would not be disrupted” (Takahashi 1998, 113). While homeless people made the Phoenix society uneasy and self-conscious, laws that criminalized homeless activities like “urban camping, aggressive panhandling and sitting on the sidewalks in downtown” (Brinegar 2003, 68) were developed to ban the homeless from major urban areas.
People did not consider dealing with the homeless population inside their neighborhoods. Misinformed people were the product of an oppressing and controlling wealthy society that excluded the poor from communities, classifying them as waste. Controlled by this idea, the community did not ask questions to superiors and in consequence did not mix with the homeless. However they gave money for charities, volunteer in soup kitchens and other services, with the condition that the homeless were not directly accessible to their neighborhood. According to Lyon-Callo the NIMBY movement was composed by many judgments and opinions which left selfishness as a minor cause. From the readings, I gather that selfishness might be the root of all his theories. Citizens would not sacrifice him-self for the sake of other, like the homeless people would not sacrifice themselves for the sake of the community. In the early skid rows in New York City where men bought drinks for every fellow man without asking anything, men instead of receiving money for money (which they did eventually from fellow men) received understanding, compassion and friendship (DePastino 2003). Same ideology applies to the citizens that volunteer for good causes. Would they do it if they did not receive self-satisfaction in exchange, no matter how noble the cause might be? Man’s pursuit of his own rational self-interest and happiness influenced the community’s opposition of a homeless society in their neighborhood were men had to exist for his own sake, in order to survive.