In Hard Times, Tent Cities Rise
Across the Country
Since foreclosure mess, homeless advocates report rise in
Homeless encampments are springing up around the
country, including this one next to the homeless
shelter in downtown Reno, Nev.
-- - RENO, Nev. - A few tents cropped up hard by the
railroad tracks, pitched by men left with nowhere to go once the
emergency winter shelter closed for the summer.
appeared — people who had lost their jobs to the ailing economy,
or newcomers who had moved to Reno for work and discovered no
one was hiring.
more than 150 people were living in tents big and small, barely
a foot apart in a patch of dirt slated to be a parking lot for a
campus of shelters Reno is building for its homeless population.
Like many other cities, Reno has found itself with a "tent city"
— an encampment of people who had nowhere else to go.
percent of local and state homeless coalitions say they've
experienced a rise in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis
began in 2007, according to a report by the National Coalition
for the Homeless. The group says the problem has worsened since
the report's release in April, with foreclosures mounting, gas
and food prices rising and the job market tightening.
that poverty and homelessness have increased," said Michael
Stoops, acting executive director of the coalition. "The economy
is in chaos, we're in an unofficial recession and Americans are
worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their
Caught by surprise
The phenomenon of encampments has caught advocacy
groups somewhat by surprise, largely because of how quickly they
have sprung up.
seeing is encampments that I haven't seen since the 80s," said
Paul Boden, executive director of the Western Regional Advocacy
Project, an umbrella group for homeless advocacy organizations
in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Calif., Portland, Ore.
tony city of Santa Barbara has given over a parking lot to
people who sleep in cars and vans.
The city of
Fresno, Calif., is trying to manage several proliferating tent
cities, including an encampment where people have made shelters
out of scrap wood.
Ore., and Seattle, homeless advocacy groups have paired with
nonprofits or faith-based groups to manage tent cities as
where tent cities have either appeared or expanded include
include Chattanooga, Tenn., San Diego, and Columbus, Ohio.
The Department of Housing and Urban Development recently
reported a 12 percent drop in homelessness nationally in two
years, from about 754,000 in January 2005 to 666,000 in January
2007. But the 2007 numbers omitted people who previously had
been considered homeless — such as those staying with relatives
or friends or living in campgrounds or motel rooms for more than
Scott Sady / AP
Robert Scott Cook, originally from Alaska, sits with
one of his dogs, Zoey, at the tent city that sprung
up next to the homeless shelter in Reno, Nev.
the housing and economic crisis began soon after HUD's most
recent data was compiled.
predates the housing crisis," said Brian Sullivan, a spokesman
for HUD. "From the headlines, it might appear that the report is
about yesterday. How is the housing situation affecting
homelessness? That's a great question. We're still trying to get
which is experiencing a building boom and an influx of affluent
professionals in neighborhoods the working class once owned,
homeless encampments have been springing up — in remote places
to avoid police sweeps.
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