Friday, October 21, 2011

Tent Cities: The Secret That Won’t Go Away

Since the economic crisis began in late 2007, many Americans have suffered foreclosure. By October 2011 the foreclosure rate had climbed to 33%; greater than the 31% reported during the Great Depression.

For many, homelessness was brought on by job loss, but there are an ever-growing number of renters who have found themselves out on the street when the landlord lost the home to foreclosure. Others struggling to get by have found themselves the victims of escalating rent prices and for others; homelessness arrived when the social services they received was cut off as cities themselves experienced economic insolvency.

For every foreclosure, there is a heartfelt story to be told.

Not in My Back Yard!

Tent cities are a reflection of America’s insolvency and may be an indicator of what we can expect should we join the ranks of the unemployed. The US Department of Housing and Development reports that on any given night, 650,000 people experience homelessness.

Cities across America have chosen hard-line abandonment over compassion for the homeless. The plight of the homeless is difficult to unearth, as it is not being reported on to the extent it deserves. Yet, even though mainstream media seems to have swept their struggles into a dark corner of obscurity, there remains a voice being broadcasted daily through You Tube by ordinary citizens who care enough to report on their areas   homeless.

Marginalizing the homeless has lead to draconian measures. In Phoenix, Cross Roads United Methodist Church received a verdict of guilty by a judge who ruled the pancake breakfasts they were serving to the homeless was illegal;

Churches are not the only ones being punished for their good deeds. A couple in Houston, Texas who for over one year had been feeding the homeless each and every night was ordered to stop. The reason? They did not have a “permit” to do so;

Where Have All The Homeless Gone?

The plight of the homeless in Lakewood, New Jersey was documented in this You Tube where Pastor Steve Brigham discusses the tent city (in this case huts) he set up for the homeless that was ordered torn down. Pastor Brigham points to a woman who was employed in the garment district in New York City earning over $100,000 a year. She lost her job in the garment industry when operations were outsourced to China. Pastor Brigham states the 60 people about to be displaced were not likely to find warm shelter and hot meals to sustain life over the long winter.

A follow-up on the plight of the homeless in Lakewood New Jersey was reported on by  Fox News on August 11, 2011:

In Huntington, Virginia a tent city that was erected on vacant land was bulldozed after the homeless were warned to vacate or face arrest. On film, police officers patrol the ground in search of the homeless who will then be arrested for vagrancy should they be caught. Mayor David Felinton was paraphrased as having said, “The city has done what it could.”

Tent Cities Are Disappearing all Across America

Although tent cities are disappearing, homelessness is growing as more and more lose their jobs or fall victim to eroding social services they had been receiving. Cities in financial trouble themselves are unable to answer the increased need to help the homeless with food and shelter, but neither are they willing to allow people to help themselves by allowing them to pitch tents, nor do they appear to welcome humanitarian efforts.

A report on one of the largest tent cities located in Sacramento, California reflects 1,500 homeless were living there with a reported 50 new arrivals each day who wished to  avoid living on the streets. Like so many sites set up for the homeless, Sacramento bulldozed it in 2009.

Even a tropical paradise is not immune. In Hawaii, the ranks of the homeless tops the national average as the problem continues to increase, but like city’s elsewhere, the displaced are told that it is illegal to sleep in parks

In 2007, after a tent city located underneath pedestrian bridges by Cleveland Browns Stadium had been in existence for 15 months, Cleveland officials answered the need of the homeless by ordering them to vacate or face arrest. Officials had no advice for alternative housing.

Who to Contact

To view a report with up to date information on 75 tent cities, visit the National Coalition for the Homeless


The preceding was a guest post for The Final Hour by author Barbara Fix.

Visit Survival Diva Blog for more information on rural living, gardening, home canning, food storage, and tips on combating skyrocketing food prices.

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