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An Investigation into Occupy as a Model for Sheltering the Homeless

Part 2 Dissertation 2014
James Hurst
Nottingham Trent University Nottingham UK
On 17th of September 2011 thousands of people took to the streets in New York City. They were inspired by the Arab Spring protests, which gave them hope of change and driven by the global financial crisis that had left many of them unemployed (GELDER, 2011 p.1). They believed that the cause of this crisis was the greed of Wall Street, Banks, Big Corporations and others that made up the 1% that had claimed the world’s wealth for themselves, at the expense of the 99% that the protesters represented (GELDER, 2011 p.14). After being repelled from the main financial district, some of the protesters set up their tents in the nearby Zuccotti Park and squatted there for 59 days. These protesters, driven by the social and economic inequalities, inspired others and became a movement that spread globally, resulting in occupations in 1,518 cities world wide by 2012 and 41 of these in the UK (OCCUPY, 2013. Inter Occupy). The global Occupy movement was born.

This dissertation explores the Occupy movement’s relationship with the built environment and its socio-political impact from this perspective, in view of drawing out whether the Occupy camps could be seen as potential models for the appropriation of public space by the homeless, both as shelter and as a form of protest.

Using Occupy London as a case study, it focuses on the movement’s potential drawbacks and barriers to acting as such a model, as raised in the media and by primary sources consulted.

The study further identifies the Occupy camps’ highly complex social management as instrumental in their sustained survival within the public realm and at the same time, the overwhelming proportion of privately owned public spaces as a crucial obstacle to their future free use by the public.

Despite its undoubtedly significant potential therefore, the Occupy movement’s camps are thus rendered an arguably unsustainable model for homeless shelters within the current UK urban context and considering the resources available to the homeless.

James Hurst

Alina Hughes
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