Posts Tagged ‘ad-hoc communities’

What defines a home?

This article about camps me wonder: What defines a home? Walls and a roof? Does it matter what they’re made out of? Or is it just a space, demarcated in any way possible, and someone saying “this is mine”?

Does the lack of owning or a legal contract (ie, lease/rent) to the space you’re in remove all rights of personal property? It’s one thing to kick someone out of a space that isn’t theirs but another to confiscate belongings.

Had this happened in a suburban home, we’d demand to see the warrant, or else it’d be illegal search and seizure.

By MARY PEMBERTON (AP) – 1 day ago

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — The American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska is proceeding with a lawsuit to prevent further raids of homeless camps in Anchorage.

The ACLU had hoped to reach an agreement with the municipality over the destruction of the camps and disposal of property belonging to the homeless. But the ACLU’s Jeffrey Mittman says no agreement was reached protecting the constitutional rights of the homeless.

The class-action lawsuit was filed with the courts last week on behalf of Dale Engle, a disabled veteran whose camp has been raided numerous times. Police took Engle’s tent and sleeping bag, along with medals and ribbons he was awarded while serving in the Army and National Guard.


Sewers home to vagrant Colombian kids

The first time I heard anything about people living in the sewers in Colombia was back at the beginning of the ’90s. The sewage system running under Bogota’s streets was filled with packs of kids living waist-deep in human waste and taking in copious amounts of glue and crack in order to cope.
This was at the height of Colombia’s Dirty War, and the whole reason street kids had moved into the sewers in the first place was to get away from the violence above ground

Sewers home to vagrant Colombian kids

Tent cities take advantage of the internet

As the economic downturn has worsened, growing numbers of homeless people are camping in tent cities across the United States. But unlike the Hoovervilles of the Great Depression, people living in modern day tent cities can access to the web, at libraries, local internet cafes and through homeless service providers allowing tent cities residents around the world to connect, swap notes, and support one another online.

Read more: Tent Cities Connect Online

The Truth About Policing and Skid Row

An article from City Journal titled “The Truth About Policing and Skid Row” uses the story of a double-murder to illustrate the ultimate failure that arises from allowing ad-hoc homeless communities to persist:

For 25 years, Skid Row constituted a real-world experiment in the application of homeless-advocate ideology. The squalor that engulfed the 50-block district just east of downtown Los Angeles was the direct outgrowth of advocates’ claims that the homeless should be exempt from the rules of ordinary society. The result was not a reign of peace and love among society’s underdogs, but rather brutal predation and depravity. Occupants of the filthy tents and lean-tos that covered every inch of sidewalk in the area pimped each other out and stole from, stabbed, and occasionally killed one another. Gangs and pushers from South Central and East Los Angeles operated with impunity under cover of the chaos that reigned on the streets.

Just another example of why homelessness is such a tough issue to solve. People have nowhere to go, so they congregate–with or without permission–into loose communities on their own where basic codes are being broken. If police and officials try to do something about it, homeless advocates call “unfair!” If they don’t do something about it, crime can fester, and when we have non-victimless crime on our hands, people yell that something should be done about it.

How do we as a society break the loop?

Original City Journal article is here: The Truth About Policing and Skid Row

and I found out about it from here: Policing The Homeless

Local Gainesville Tent City Forced To Close Back In June

Seeing that previous CNN article brought this one to mind that I saw this summer in the Alligator.

The first paragraph read:

Residents of the Tent City homeless community have been served eviction notices following a stabbing last week, but no housing alternatives have been offered for the mini-city’s nearly 200 inhabitants.

Yet again we run into the problem: where are these people going to go? It’s another example of there not being enough support to handle the number of homeless in the area:

Tent City residents who asked the city for help were referred to the Office of Homelessness for a place to go, but according to Gunn, there is no place for the displaced residents to go.

“From my perspective, there’s not much city support,” she said. “There’s no funding for all of these people. At least Tent City was a place for them to go.”

An advocate for the homeless paints the rosy side of the picture:

[Amanda Gunn, a local Faces of Homelessness spokeswoman] talked about a Tent City man who built a house with insulation, a kitchen and a bedroom all from scraps he found at a construction site.

But the self-proclaimed mayor of Tent City can’t take his home with him, just as many residents can’t carry everything that they own on their backs.

“There are a lot of personal items they are just expected to walk away from,” Gunn said.

But’s not all sunshine and roses, either. Things can and do get rough when people fend for themselves. The article balances both sides of the issue fairly well:

However, Gainesville Police Department spokesman Keith Kameg said the eviction is about more than one incident.

“It’s not just about the stabbing,” Kameg said. “This is not a healthy or safe environment. The owners have a genuine concern for the people and don’t want to see people get hurt.”

Crime has also increased in the area, according to Kameg. Drugs are being sold, prostitution has taken a foothold and stolen property is being taken to the area, he said.

Many people point to stuff like this as reason for more government involvement. The reasoning goes along the lines of getting the people into normal low-cost housing in hopes that we wouldn’t have so many problems. That, of course, takes money. And who’s going to pay? Who decides how it’s spent?

In the end, this is why homelessness is such a difficult issue to solve. It’s a complex social and economical situation only made worse by heaping tons of preconceptions and misconceptions on top of it. I don’t think there’s an easy answer, but like with most things, it starts by being better informed.

Through the book and this site, that’s what I hope to do. Tent City residents will be evicted Thursday (Tuesday, June 9, 2009)

Tent Camps on the Rise

The idea that tent camps are a new thing due to the economic downturn is absurd: they’ve been around long before the downturn and they’ll still be here even after (if?) we get the “all-clear”. Opening line aside, the article does hit on one of the major issues:

The camps have often led to standoffs between local governments that say the camps violate housing ordinances and homeless rights advocates who argue that people struggling to get back on their feet need a permanent place to stay.

What we have here is a bureaucratic process crashing head-on with what we deem as a basic human right to shelter. “They’re breaking codes,” say the officials. But where are else they supposed to go? The fundamental disconnect is here:

Port officials say the camp violates city codes. The officials add that they have tried to find the camp’s residents another place to live.

They tried to find another place–they apparently failed. So now what? There are still people without a place to stay. That fact hasn’t changed.

It’s common when dealing with homelessness: people and governments and institutions try to make a difference; when they can’t, sometimes other people/organizations can step in. And when they can’t, people go without.

And thus we’re back to people fending for themselves. Meanwhile, discussion goes on around them.

CNN: Homeless find temporary haven in tent camps