"Tent City" has become the frequent topic in news stories. And comments on these stories range from concerned to condemning (most often of the people living there). People seem more critical of homeless persons than they do of Madoff and other schemers.
As one of the unwilling founders of the first authorized Tent City in this country, back in 1990, I feel the need to weigh in on this topic.
Tent cities are abysmal (in most cases) responses to homelessness. The growing number of TCs in this country certainly reflects the growing level of homelessness, along with the decline of housing dollars spent by our government. Too often, stories show adults, sometimes not the most sympathetic characters (for many people). But what about the children?
As "mayor" of our TC in Aurora, my rule, or standard, was NO CHILDREN. I knew what might go on in the mostly self-ruled nylon-walled community behind our shelter. Most TC residents didn't want the responsibility of families in what might occasionally be an unsavory environment. I ended up bending the rule when faced with no other options.
For the record, as difficult as life was for the "campers" in our commune, most were more than exemplary. We all strove to make it as humane as possible, and once in awhile we received visitors, including folks from Seattle, who wanted to learn about how to start their own TC.
Recent national news stories focused on the growth of homelessness among children. I predict it will be a matter of a short time that we'll be (hopefully) disturbed by images of families living in these Third World-like campgrounds. Why?
Ask anyone who pays bills about the rise in utility bill rates. Most households gulp and pay. But families in public housing who have little to no income don't have that luxury. If they can't gulp and pay, they get evicted. I'm not talking "deadbeat" families, if we should classify impoverished families in this manner given the poor example set by some rich slime buckets, but I digress....
Households in HUD-subsidized housing face eviction if they fall behind on their utility bills and get shut off. Let's understand the reality here:
- Utility bills have skyrocketed since the global economy was deliberately manipulated by greedy power-brokers.
- Poverty has skyrocketed, with foreclosures, evictions, businesses shutting their doors, causing widespread fiscal devastation everywhere.
- People relying on subsidized housing in most cases, their limited income status not withstanding, must pay skyrocketing utility bills.
- If they can't pay, they get evicted, often becoming homeless, adding to the skyrocketing number of families on the streets.
- Homelessness, in addition to the harm it causes families, also causes costs for local communities to skyrocket--education, health care, emergency services, and public safety (to name a few).
Seems to me that family Tent Cities need to be set up in front of the homes of the "shenanigan" perpetrators. And, in the meantime, HUD needs to declare a moratorium on evictions until Cramer and Company can pay the utility bills of the families facing eviction. It might be a good time to buy stock in tent manufacturers.
If you are sufficiently outraged, please take a few moments to join in the HEAR US Piggies' Project, aimed at changing the way Congress lets HUD deal with homelessness.