America's tent cities

The BBC's Panorama looks at the rise of semi-official homeless tent-camps in American cities. These are springing up in states where austerity "balanced budget" drives are severely cutting services. Especially concerning is the report of homeless children who are going hungry, going to bed hungry, getting dizzy from hunger, waiting through the weekend to go to school (with subsidized meals) to eat. City services -- shelters, emergency rooms, police -- actually send people to the tent cities, because there is no official place for them to go.

According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line - the most in half a century - fuelled by several years of high unemployment.

One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.

In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.

"The black mould - it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night," she said of wintering in a tent.

The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.

America's homeless resort to tent cities


    1. Wow,really!?!? starving children pleases you,eh? You are a world class douchebag.Also,you shouldn’t “like” your own comments,it’s pretty pathetic..

        1. where is the sarcasm in “don’t pity those people” ? i love how people throw “sarcasm” around and don’t even know how to use it properly  

          1. The fact that you missed it doesn’t mean it’s not there.  Also, the “/s” tag is meant to indicate sarcasm.

    1. Yessiree.  If they aren’t successful, it can only be because they aren’t trying.  Just ignore those slackers and go on with your lives.

      1. Yeah, as a society we have totally fucked ideas of individuality, but little real sense of (individuality)/self. The Christian Church is fundamentally responsible for this loss of self.
        Individuality is a random set of psychological contradictions you can never get to the bottom of.
        Self is knowledge and complexity/simplicity and mystery.

  1. There has also been a steady deterioration in the value of incomes in the US undermining people’s preparedness for economic shocks over the past 30 years or so. This is now happening in Europe too.

  2. With all due respect to the Beeb, the Portland community has been around for well over a decade. While it has probably grown significantly in the last few years, the so named “Dignity Village” has not just “sprung up”.

  3. But I thought Reagan promised them a no-tax Utopia of great prosperity if they’d simply start voting republican?

    After 30 years of conservative economic policies, the white working class is beginning to look like the marginalized black population. Low workforce participation, tons of social pathologies. Truly ironic, as the white working class’ racism is what led them to abandon the liberals and start voting for conservative republicans.

    I love a karmic payback.

    1.  It may shock you to learn that a lot of the desperately poor are also people of colour as well as children who have never voted in their short lives. I post this understanding I may get disemvolwed, but you are a horrible person for wishing this kind of ill on anyone.

    2. I’d like it better if those same Reagan voters showed any understanding of how badly they’ve been deceived. But they’re still going on about “I saw a black person buy steak with their food stamps.”

    3. As a foreigner, it is astounding to watch a significant section of the US’ poorest citizens repeatedly vote for policies that will hurt them. 

      1. Yes, but they THINK that their votes are hurting those OTHER people.

        That’s why their suffering is so enjoyable to me.

        Now flag my comment out of existence. That also won’t help the white working class survive their long slide to poverty.

  4. Actually there are at least 3 tent cities in Ann Arbor Michigan.  The city and University had one of the tent cities evicted because it was seen by too many people who were attending football games.

    There are tent cities by 94 and Wagner road, one off of Washtenaw behind Hillers, one by the Gandy Dancer and one that moved closer to Ypsilanti after “eviction”.

    I would suspect that if they did an actual study/account there are probably closer to 10 in the Ann Arbor area alone.

    a large number of the people who are homeless and live in these cities are mentally ill people who were thrown out of institutions and group homes by republicans.
    There are some who are drug addicts and some who are simply people (or families) who have lost their jobs and ran out of money/options before they were homeless.

    Once homeless, it becomes nearly impossible for them to break the cycle or get out of the situation.

    most employers will not hire someone who admits they are homeless or is as unkempt as many homeless people end up (through their living conditions)

    1. The encampment that was located within the I-94 interchange at Ann Arbor-Saline was dismantled by the State police at the behest of MDOT &/or the road commission (possibly under pressure from U of M).  The city wasn’t involved, it’s not their jurisdiction or maintenance responsibility.  The homeless have moved to the Wagner Rd. camp you mentioned.
      Any (and maybe every) unattended patch of woods in and around Ann Arbor contain homeless people.  10 is an undercounting encampments, to be certain.  It’s certainly not a recent phenomenon, either.  I first stumbled onto a camp shortly after moving here in 1995 in Brown Park.  I’ve found many since then.  As a rule, I don’t walk alone in the woods around here.

    2. Thanks for bringing up the mentally ill and addicted, who were once treated by a national network of medical facilities, and who were dumped on the street by St. Reagan.

      And don’t forget homeless vets. 

      How many homeless veterans are there?Although flawless counts are impossible to come by – the transient nature of homeless populations presents a major difficulty – the Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Veterans Affairs (VA) estimate that over 67,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. Over the course of a year, approximately twice that many experience homelessness. Only eight percent of the general population can claim veteran status, but nearly one-fifth of the homeless population are veterans. 

  5. It’s made all the worse when one realizes what this country was capable of a scant 50 years ago.  The speed of this nation’s decline is shocking.  

    I’m looking forward to participating in a discussion of solutions.  With so many smart people on the web, it should be relatively simple to organize that much at least.

    Note I didn’t say a tribal shit-throwing contest.  We need a sober, reasoned discussion of self-directed independent solutions without the blaming and posturing.   That’s how Americans solved problems 50 years ago.

    Go watch Apollo 13 again for numerous simple examples.   Note the extraordinary shortage of whining, blaming and assholes in that film.  

    Note the results.

    1. “The light that burns twice as bright burns twice as fast.”

      Are you looking for potential solutions to the homelessness that is described in the BBC report? Or to the problems that caused the homelessness? Or to the decline of the U.S. during the past 50 years?

      The solution to the former two problems lies in the kind of localization some have been talking about for the past few years, only now it will become more serious for more people involved. Shopping locally at non-conglomerates? Vacationing locally? Locally-grown foods? These habits will all become the norm because they will have to be. Federal, state, and even some local governments are unwilling to address the problems of poverty and unemployment in their own communities. The folks who live in those communities, especially larger cities in which anonymity is the norm, will need to become increasingly self-reliant and fill that vacuum… but they will need to do so together. In some respects this process will be emotionally (and also practically) liberating. People will realize skills they never knew they had, they will become more directly involved in previously mundane aspects of their lives (e.g. working in a community garden). I think many communities in the U.S. could be fairly resilient.

      As for the latter issue? Pragmatically speaking, no solution will be forthcoming. The same people who have orchestrated the decline of the U.S. have the mobility and resources to leave the country when it becomes inconvenient to live there. And you can bet that they will squeeze every last drop out of the country before they leave it; they do not have to live with the consequences. Your best hope is to minimize their influence in your life as much as possible and refuse to legitimize them. Spend this 2012 election day doing something useful, like making things.

    2. Uh, note that completely different policies of 50 years ago while you’re at it.  Note that it was before bored boomers started flirting with neoliberal policy making as well.

  6. People need to start their lives with something to their name. This is particularly true in the modern world in which some sort of tools or capital is needed to be able to produce almost any type of value.

    Start life with something and you have a seed that you can grow, grow, and grow. Start life with nothing, and you are hanging on from pay check to pay check, one bad day away from disaster. 

  7. One can rent a two bedroom home in Poinciana FL starting at about $500. Two couples could live in there pretty cheaply.

    1. So that requires what, three months’ rent deposit to the landlord plus the first month’s rent up front – two thousand dollars. Add to that the approval of the landlord, who will want to see evidence that you can keep paying, so you need to have a steady job (some of them even run credit checks). The landlord doesn’t want two couples living in there, so if you’re going to do that you run the constant risk of being discovered and kicked out. So let’s recap – you need two thousand dollars, a steady job and good credit, and if you go halves with some other couple you run the constant risk of losing it. How many homeless people do you think have two thousand dollars, a steady job and good credit?

  8. The US Federal Government spends an amount equal to 94% of all personal income taxes on the military and “homeland” security. If we didn’t, maybe we’d still be a great nation.

  9. Disgusting, absolutely disgusting and no, I’m not taking the moral high ground here because I know we have similar social issues and have done for quite a while. 

    I realise charities can only do so much but, considering just how much tax my ‘representatives’ rip out of my paws every damn year nobody in this sodding country should be living on the streets; fine, they shouldn’t all have 3 bedroom houses (channeling a shade of Daily Mail) but jesus h christ. 

  10. The interview with the hungry schoolchildren is deeply saddening and frustrating. The Obama administration has taken a lot of hits for keeping federal funding flowing to SNAP and other public assistance programs. I can only wonder at what those children’s parents are thinking that avoiding SNAP and feeding their kids rats is the ‘better’ choice.

  11. The system is broken,has been for years.You lose your job,fall behind on some payments,they take your house,which ruins your credit.Then,when you go and try to find work,the employers do credit checks,finds out your credit is less than perfect..throws your application/resume in the trash….  

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