|'Tent cities' of homeless on the rise across the US
Homeless encampments dubbed "tent cities" are springing up across the US, partly in response to soaring numbers of home repossessions, the credit crunch and rising unemployment, according to a report.
Telegraph | September 20, 2008
Nearly 61 per cent of local and state homeless organisations say they have witnessed an increase in homelessness since the foreclosure crisis began in 2007, the Washington DC-based National Coalition for the Homeless study says.
And the problem has intensified since the report was produced in April, along with rising repossessions, soaring energy and food prices and job losses, the group says.
"It's clear that poverty and homelessness have increased," Michael Stoops, acting executive director of the coalition, said.
"The economy is in chaos, we're in an unofficial recession and Americans are worried, from the homeless to the middle class, about their future."
Homeless groups and government agencies from Seattle, in Washington state, to Athens in Georgia, report the most visible increase in homeless encampments in a generation.
"What you're 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 of homeless groups in west coast cities.
In Reno, Nevada, the state with the nation's highest repossessions rate, a tent city recently sprung up on the city's outskirts and quickly filled up with about 150 people. Many, such as Sylvia Flynn, 51, who came from northern California, ended up homeless after losing their jobs and home.
Officials say they do not know how many homeless the city has. "But we do know that the soup kitchens are serving hundreds more meals a day and that we have more people who are homeless than we can remember," Jodi Royal-Goodwin, the city's redevelopment agency director, said.
In California, the upmarket city of Santa Barbara is housing homeless people who live in their cars in city car parks while Fresno, has several tent cities. Others have sprung up in Portland in Oregon, and Seattle, where homeless activists have set up mock tent cities at city hall to draw attention to the problem.
Meanwhile, new encampments have appeared, or existing ones grown, in San Diego, Chattanooga in Tennessee, and Columbus, Ohio.
A recent report by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development noted a 12 per cent drop in homelessness across the nation, but the latest figures – from 2007 – predates the current housing and economic crisis.