Did you know that 44% of the homeless in America are living without shelter?
As discussed in my last post, tent cities have historically been one way people seek shelter, primarily because there is a dearth of affordable housing. Many of them start as disorganized gatherings of squatters with no place else to go due to shelter overcrowding or housing ineligibility.
Over time though, non-profits have begun to help arrange more organized tent cities. This usually involves taking an existing tent city and helping them restructure in a way that meets city or local guidelines and benefits the residents of the encampment.
These organized tent cities are thought of by their supporters as waiting rooms until transitional or permanent housing becomes available. The National Coalition for the Homeless put out a report on tent cities on the pacific coast, and it outlines the structure of several successful tent cities. Cities like Seattle, Portland, and Fresno (among others) have serious shelter overcrowding problems, and tent cities have formed as a way to handle the surplus.
The vast majority of the tent cities discussed in the report are dry encampments with strict rules about drug use and violence. They have councils, meetings, security shifts, and they are self governed. These miniature communities are models of what our larger communities should look like. Some of them grow their own food, assist each other in job searches, have community service hours, and advocacy campaigns.
The members of the tent cities discussed in this report defy all stereotypes of homeless people. They are responsible, clean and sober, and motivated. The non-profits that partner with them are assisting in funding and act as service providers, but they do not run the tent cities or tell them what to do. These men and women have achieved a level of sufficiency at which they can run their own villages.
This is not to say that these people should stay in tent cities forever, or even that tent cities are the best solution to homelessness. These are just a few of the positives to be considered when looking at tent cities in America and how they function to service the greater good. In my next post, I will discuss the downside to tent cities.