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Dilara Yarbrough

Associate Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, San Francisco State University
Chapter Member: Bay Area SSN
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About Dilara

Yarbrough’s research focuses on how different types of governmental responses to poverty perpetuate or interrupt racial, gender and economic inequalities. Her research shows how the criminalization of homelessness, sex work, and drug use deepens poverty, and explores transformative alternatives including harm reduction and grassroots movements. Yarbrough also works to build the expertise and capacity of housing justice organizations to conduct their own research and policy advocacy. In collaboration with unhoused organizers and colleagues, she has presented findings about the criminalization of poverty to policymakers and community organizations.


Preventing Homelessness Among TransLatinas in a Sanctuary City

  • Dilara Yarbrough
  • Nicole Santamaria
  • Christoph Hanssmann
  • Samuel Bosch

In the News


"Stop the Revolving Door: A Street-level Framework for a New System" (with Dilara Yarbrough, Jamie Chang, Olivia Glowacki, Samantha Lew, Chris Herring, Jennifer Friedenbach, Chris Hanssmann, Kelsey Ludwig, Pike Long, and Kat Sexton). Our City Our Home Coalition (2021).

Presents how we can best address the homelessness crisis in San Francisco by asking the experts on homelessness: homeless people themselves. Turns to them as decision makers and leaders of homelessness policy.

"Ending the Crisis of Transgender Homelessness" (with Chris Hanssmann). San Francisco State University (2021).

Centers the voices of transgender women of color and immigrants.  Describes how trans women of color are deprived of housing at higher rates than cisgender people—one in every two trans people has been homeless—yet trans experiences and needs are routinely marginalized or excluded from discussions of homelessness policy, and trans-led organizations are rarely consulted about issues related to housing. 

"“You Start with the Youth”: Narratives of Deservingness and Dissent at a Homeless Service Organization" Sociological Perspectives 65, no. 3 (2021): 506–528.

Investigates the prevalence of structural explanations of poverty among clients at a large homeless youth service organization. Finds that the organization’s liberal assimilationist narratives about “youth” facilitate more critical analyses of poverty and inequality among homeless participants.

"The Carceral Production of Transgender Poverty: How Racialized Gender Policing Deprives Transgender Women of Housing and Safety" Punishment and Society (2021).

Analyzes the confluence between policing of transgender women’s identities and survival strategies in public space and in agencies meant to serve poor people (including shelters, drug treatment facilities and transitional living programs).

"The Crisis of Transgender Homelessnness" Punishment and Society 22, no. 5 (2021): 681-702.

Discusses trans people experience rates of unemployment and homelessness that are disproportionately high compared with those of cisgender people. Mentions that when trans people seek support services, they often encounter the same dynamics of exclusion that contributed to job loss or housing deprivation in the first place.

"Fighting Anti-Homeless Laws Through Participatory Action Research: Reflections from the San Francisco Coalition on Homlessness’ Criminalization Study" (with Lisa Marie Alatorre, Bilal Ali, Jennifer Friedenbach, Chris Herring, and T.J. Johnston), in Beyond Academia: Collaborative Research and Community Action, edited by S. Greenbaum and P. Zinn (Rutgers University Press, 2020).

Describes the process of designing and conducting a Participatory Action Research study with the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness, and engaging in collaborative policy advocacy for maximum impact.

"“Nothing About Us Without Us”: Reading Protests against Oppressive Knowledge Production as Guidelines for Solidarity Research" Journal of Contemporary Ethnography (2019).

Puts forth recommendations for ethical, policy-relevant research with groups of people who experience routine, normalized violence, and who are frequently silenced and misrepresented by academics and policy makers.

"Pervasive Penality: How the Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty" (with Chris Herring and Lisa Marie Alatorre). Social Problems (2019).

Investigates the consequences of anti-homeless laws and enforcement. Examines how anti-homeless laws produce various forms of police interactions that fall short of arrest, yet have wide-ranging impacts on the urban poor. Constant policing creates and deepens poverty, and compounds inequality along the lines of race, gender and disability.

"'You Start With the Youth:" Systemic Critique at a Homeless Service Organization," American Sociological Association, August 1, 2015.

Explores the development of political consciousness among homeless youth at an organization that provides housing and services. Based on interviews and ethnography with 18-24 year-olds in shelters, on the streets and in transitional housing, the study demonstrates how service providers can support social justice advocacy.

"'Outlaw Poverty Not Prostitutes”: Sex Workers’ Responses to Poverty Management in San Francisco," University of California, San Diego: Proquest Dissertation Publishing, February 1, 2016.

Traces the lives of sex workers of all genders as they survive housing deprivation, incarceration, and social service programs, and shows how punitive responses create and maintain poverty, and investigates how harm reduction and grassroots movements can transform harmful systems. Refocuses scholarship about sex work on housing and labor market processes, and encourages scholars of homelessness to center race, gender, and sexuality in their analyses of economic inequality.

"Punishing the Poorest: How San Francisco’s Criminalization of Homelessness Perpetuates Poverty," (with Chris Herring and the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness), Social Science Research Network, June 1, 2015.

Details the extent and effects of the criminalization of homelessness in San Francisco. Findings have been reported in media and presented to local organizations and officials, including San Francisco‚ Local Homeless Coordinating Board, District Attorney, and Police Commission, as well as to the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty and Human Rights.