Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tent Cities

It is clear that our hearts go out to the homeless, especially at this time of year and in this type of inclement weather, and communities that reach for the solution of allowing formal tent cities to house the homeless are reacting to this heartfelt need.

However, the question always becomes, where do you put them, what will be the impact on the adjacent community, how will they be governed, serviced, regulated, policed, and funded.

For the temporarily homeless, those who have fallen on tough times in this period of tough times all over, and who are ready, willing, and able to work themselves out of their current situation, a tent city might be an idea worth considering; but it will, in all likelihood, also attract many of the chronic homeless (who are the folks largely camping in the Parkway) who do not want to change their situation, and that influx can cause serious problems, as recounted in a recent story in the Sacramento News & Review (that should be required reading for those considering tent cities) which was commented on November 11, 2008.

An excerpt from a Bee column calling for tent cities in Sacramento.

“With the safety net long ago shredded – public housing eliminated, community mental health facilities closed – the unemployed and evicted are joining the ranks of the homeless individuals and families who drag their few belongings from one temporary camp to another as law enforcement moves them up and out in a perennial pursuit of a failed policy that promises no rest for the weary, no sanctuary for the homeless in Sacramento County.

“While housing is the goal, whether in apartments, rooming houses, cottages, or in group homes or communal living arrangements, the immediate need is for a moratorium on citations and arrests for camping and support by the city and county for a new approach. "Tent cities" on vacant lots are now prevalent in the areas near Richards Boulevard and North C Street. Acceptance of tent cities will allow the city and county to stop wasting resources rousting homeless campers from their encampments, prosecuting them, and seizing and disposing of their belongings in a never-ending battle to drive the homeless away. It will allow public agencies to redirect resources into providing portable toilets, waste receptacles and some measure of security for homeless persons as they try to improve their situations.”