On Nextdoor, the Homeless Are the Enemy
The platform built for neighborhood news often scapegoats the most disadvantaged communities
On August 14, a man broke into a home in the Shafter neighborhood in Oakland, California. According to the resident of the home, the alleged thief entered through a locked gate in the backyard, stole a laptop, jewelry, small electronics, and a shovel. Then he left.
After the robbery, the resident took photos of the thief that were snapped by their home surveillance network and uploaded them onto Nextdoor, a social media platform that connects those who live within the same geographical neighborhood. The post was meant both to warn others of the perpetrator as well as solicit advice for how to potentially recover the lost items. Some of the responses on the platform were sympathetic, while others offered advice for contacting police. But before long, users began to air suspicions about the thief: “Given the shovel, probably a ‘homeless’ camp resident.”
Six days earlier, another poster on the same Oakland neighborhood’s Nextdoor group solicited recommendations “to stop a homeless encampment” nearby. “The area before was cleaned and now more and more homeless people are building an encampment,” they wrote. “[It’s] making the street unsafe and extremely dirty.”
“I have empathy for the homeless but calling trash personal possessions is ridiculous.”
Two days prior to that, someone else posted a photo of their stolen bamboo bicycle, asking neighbors to keep an eye out for it. One responder told them to “[Check] the homeless camp at Mosswood Park.”
These relatively minor incidents hint at a pattern: Across the country, Nextdoor is being used to actively surveil, police, and spread animosity against local homeless populations.
“I have empathy for the homeless but calling trash personal possessions is ridiculous,” wrote one Nextdoor user in Los Angeles. “My [Amazon] Ring alarm alerted me and this man was washing his face, hands, and feet with my hose right next to my front door,” wrote another user in L.A.’s Silver Lake neighborhood.