Environmental impacts of homeless encampments in the Guadalupe River riparian zone
White, Courtenay Bryan
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Among the negative societal consequences of homelessness, its potential environmental impacts are largely unconsidered. This study examines the impacts of trash and riparian zone alterations associated with a homeless population inhabiting the area surrounding the Guadalupe River in San Jose, California. Literature was reviewed to determine the environmental effects of elevated trash and sediment loads in rivers, estuaries, and the marine environment. Building upon existing trash assessment protocols, a methodology was developed to increase the accuracy of source identification. Sampling of four predetermined areas took place between November 2012 and May 2013. Results showed elevated volumes of trash and occurrences of anthropogenic alteration in the areas of the riparian zone most heavily used by the homeless population. Using existing research, inferences were made regarding the environmental effects of these disturbances. It is subsequently recommended that new mitigation measures be empirically evaluated, including long-term benefit-cost analyses regarding permanent housing of homeless populations.
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