Things More Worrisome than AGW: America’s homeless resort to tent cities
Panorama’s Hilary Andersson comes face to face with the reality of poverty in America and finds that, for some, the last resort has become life in a tented encampment.
Just off the side of a motorway on the fringes of the picturesque town of Ann Arbor, Michigan, a mismatched collection of 30 tents tucked in the woods has become home – home to those who are either unemployed, or whose wages are so low that they can no longer afford to pay rent.
Conditions are unhygienic. There are no toilets and electricity is only available in the one communal tent where the campers huddle around a wood stove for warmth in the heart of winter.
Ice weighs down the roofs of tents, and rain regularly drips onto the sleeping campers’ faces.
Tent cities have sprung up in and around at least 55 American cities – they represent the bleak reality of America’s poverty crisis.
According to census data, 47 million Americans now live below the poverty line – the most in half a century – fuelled by several years of high unemployment.
One of the largest tented camps is in Florida and is now home to around 300 people. Others have sprung up in New Jersey and Portland.
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Hilary Andersson presents Panorama: Poor America
BBC One, Monday, 13 February at 8.30pm
Then available in the UK on the BBC iPlayer.
In the Ann Arbor camp, Alana Gehringer, 23, has had a hacking cough for the last four months.
“The black mould – it was on our pillows, it was on our blankets, we were literally rubbing our faces in it sleeping every night,” she said of wintering in a tent.
The camp is run by the residents themselves, with the help of a local charity group. Calls have come in from the hospital emergency room, the local police and the local homeless shelter to see if they can send in more.
“Last night, for example, we got a call saying they had six that couldn’t make it into the shelter and… they were hoping that we could place them… So we usually get calls, around nine or 10 a night,” said Brian Durance, a camp organiser.
Michigan’s Republican-controlled state government has been locked into a programme of severe budget cuts in an attempt to balance its books.
The cuts have included benefits for many of the state’s poorest residents.
Between the cuts and the economic conditions pinching, there is increased pressure on homeless shelters.
Michigan’s Lieutenant Governor, Brian Calley, was asked about the reality of public agencies in his state suggesting the homeless live in tents.
“That is absolutely not acceptable, and we have to take steps and policies in order to make sure that those people have the skills they need to be independent, and it won’t happen overnight,” he said.
There are an estimated 5,000 people living in the dozens of camps that have sprung up across America.
The largest camp, Pinella’s Hope in central Florida – a region better known for the glamour of Disneyworld – is made up of neat rows of tents spread out across a 13-acre plot.
In Steinbeck’s Footsteps
The Catholic charity that runs it has made laundry available, as well as computers and phones.
Many of the camps are organised and hold regular meetings to divide up camp chores and agree on community rules. They have become semi-permanent homes for some residents, who see little prospect of getting jobs soon.
These tent cities – and this level of poverty – are images that many Americans associate with the Great Depression.
Unemployment in America today has not reached the astronomical levels of the 1930s, but barring a short spike in 1982, it has not been this high since the Depression era.
There are now 13 million unemployed Americans, which is three million more than when President Barack Obama was first elected.
The stark reality is that many of them are people who very recently lived comfortable middle-class lives.
For them, the economic downturn came too fast and many have been forced to trade their middle-class homes for lives in shelters, motels and at the far extreme, tented encampments.
Source: Wealth Wire
The conditions aren’t sanitary; they’re unhygienic at best. But those who have been unable to maintain a job or those who simply can’t make enough to afford rent have resorted to these uncomfortable living conditions.
Poverty has become a painful reality for those hit hard with the economic downturn over the past couple of years.
If you’ve passed through the town of Ann Abor, Michigan, perhaps you also noticed an untidy mini-housing establishment of about 30 tents in the woods nearby.
Those woods have become home for local residents who can no longer afford the cost of rent due to joblessness or extreme wage-cuts.
Black mould plagues these people on a regular basis, tainting their bodies, clothes, and bedding.
For at least 5,000 desperate Americans ? out of the 47 million living below the poverty level ? this is the best home they can get in these tough times; singles, couples, and families alike.
*Image courtesy of the MITPressLog.
According to Panorama, the latest tent-city trend has popped up in at least 55 cities throughout the United States.
One of the largest tent-homes houses approximately 300 individuals in sunny Florida. New Jersey and Portland now harbor some sizable tent communities as well.
With recent budget cuts affecting a great deal of some of America’s poorest residents, there has been too much pressure on homeless shelters to let everyone in.
Because of the increase in homelessness, city residents generally run these tent camps with help from a local charity group.
Census data reveals that America hasn’t seen poverty like this in more than 50 years. Years of high unemployment has caught up with ordinary Americans all over the nation.
Right now, there are at least 13 million unemployed Americans ? an astonishing three million more than when Obama first took office.
The scariest part of this story is that many of these desperate, homeless tent-dwellers were very recently living comfortable lives as part of America’s middle-class…they were good, honest, hard-working people.