tration and dispersion, to one of strategic institutional power that could contest
other institutions, however briefly. Contesting power led to higher levels of activity
and self-esteem among both park residents and activists, and to higher levels of
empowerment on an individual level.
Broad-scale empowerment of the homeless, which envisioned a developing political power, was considerably more diffuse and problematic among residents of
Garden Grove Park, partly because it was dependent upon political actions at the
state and federal level. However, one should not be quick to dismiss the micro-level
resistance tactics of the displaced. While their difficulties may be problematic for a
political theory of resistance, this in no way negates the role that local micro-level
resistance tactics play in grounding larger political movements. Resistance is often
important to the homeless themselves, even if conditions are not sufficient to
sustain a resistance movement beyond the local level. Resistance tactics require a
high degree of risk that may not be immediately acceptable to particular homeless
We are indebted to Jennifer Wolch, Michael Dear, Mark Gottdiener, Michael Rotkin, Sue
Ruddick, and Roger Keil for their critique and helpful comments on earlier drafts of this
paper. A preliminary version of this paper was presented at the 1990 Annual American
Sociological Association conference, Washington, D.C.
All names of interviewed persons have been altered to protect their anonymity.
Giddens's notion of time-space continuity and discontinuity ( 1981:150, 1984:110- 145) can be used to understand the relationship between larger forces of institutional control
and surveillance, and one's physical body and self-image.
As de Certeau notes, "The 'proper' is a triumph of place over time" ( 1984:36). He
further writes that it is the control over and the division of space which "makes possible a
panoptic practice proceeding from a place whence the eye can transform foreign forces into
objects that can be observed and measured, and thus control and 'include' them within its
scope of vision" ( 1984:36).
This study was conducted by the Orange County Homeless Issues Task Force
( 1990) and covered 1,974 persons, 36 percent of whom were children. While the study does
not focus on a strictly random sample, it does profile the types of homeless persons who
asked for assistance. We know that there are many who do not ask for assistance.
According to the 1980 census, Hispanics represent 14.8 percent of Orange County's
In 1988 the city of Santa Ana, California, used local park employees to follow-up a
police sweep of the civic center plaza by confiscating bedrolls, blankets, and other belongings stored by the local homeless in the bushes. These possessions were then thrown away.
This action by the city produced a large public outcry and legal suits, forcing the city to
modify its policy by providing limited storage for homeless belongings. On April 25, 1990,
fifteen local homeless people received a settlement from the city of $50,000, or $3,308 per
Public rest rooms used by park residents were locked several times by park officials