Tent cities are growing all over the country. Over 47 million people now live below the poverty line. There are growing numbers of tent cities, surrounding over 55 American metro areas.
Hundreds live in squalor in the Taco Flats area of Fresno, California. Others live in tents in the woods near Ann Arbor, Michigan. On any given night, over 670,000 American citizens have nowhere to sleep. Many of these are the inhabitants of tent cities like these.
Others simply sleep under a bridge or in an alley or anywhere that they can find shelter. In this Dickensian atmosphere created by the deficits caused by the tax cuts that took trillions of dollars from the economy, by the Republican wars that bankrupted the country, by the theft of over $7.5 trillion dollars of equity belonging to individual American citizens…tent cities will only flourish under Republican rule.
Mitt Romney has made it clear that he will follow the lead of the Republican House of Representatives, with no revenue increases for government, only the lame and debunked Bush policy of cutting even more from government and lying about expanded revenues as a result. Anyone who believes a man like Mitt Romney who never once, not once in his business career, ever expressed regret for taking millions from companies that he shut down while sending the jobs to China.
Tent city in Lakewood, New Jersey. Last year, Lakewood city officials made community volunteers tear down more substantial wood shelters for over 70 families that have nowhere else to go. Over the course of the winter, one man died of pneumonia and another froze to death. At one point the camp was hit with over 30 inches of snow.
Slab City, California is another story. East of Los Angeles in the barren California Desert near the Salton Sea, Slab City offers one of the last free spaces in the country. The old abandoned Marine base has become a refuge for RV owners who, though they have no water or utilities, can at least stop and rest for a while without police telling them to “move on.” Some have been in Slab City for years. Others sold their homes for whatever they could get, bought a motorhome and moved to Slab City. Some look for jobs constantly. Others simply seem depressed and waiting for some good news, which does not come.
One of the considerations for the homeless is that it makes life damatically less convenient. It is difficult to find work when…if you do not…you have lost a day in finding a place to stay. If the only place you can live is in a tent city, then the main job becomes finding water to wash, and all the other little details that a home solves. A home becomes a container for clothes and any valuables a homeless person might still have, as well as a protector of immediate cash and clothes and papers such as valuable identification cards and paper.
The homeless do not dress as they would like. They dress as the clothes available to them dictate. They have no medical insurance, no dental care and no personal security. Many homeless are abused, beaten and robbed. They are harassed constantly by police, moved and occasionally arrested.
In the Tampa, Clearwater, St. Petersburg area of Florida, not far from where the rich Republicans will eat and drink and go to watch striptease artists, according to the press…there is a model tent city run by Catholic Charities…known as Pinella’s Hope. It has water and sewage and, in addition to tents, has some small wooden “casitas” (or “little houses”) that residents are shown how to build.
Tents at Pinella’s Hope
It is remarkably efficient and it is wonderful for the roughly 800 people who pass through the 300-capacity location each year…a saving grace…at the very least a place to stop and rest for a while. All the more valuable given the fact that in that part of the state of Florida there are another 6,000 homeless people at least who need a place to stay.
It is easy to calculate. We have about 3 million people now who are homeless thanks to George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and since 2008, thanks to the Republican House of Representatives since 2010, and since 2009, when President Obama took office, thanks to over 257 filibusters (Senate vetos) of any kind of assistance to the poor.
But that’s not all. This year, so far, Karl Rove and his pals, the Republican super-pacs, have already spent $122 million dollars in campaigns to defeat a President who would create jobs for many of these people. If that money were spent on the homeless, and let’s say that the Democrats would then not spend the roughly $30 million thus far, that would be about $3 million a year per state.
Since many states have much less of a problem than others, one could presume that states like Florida or New Jersey or California could have perhaps double the funds. Florida could thus fund six times as many Pinella’s Hope camps, while other states around the country could likewise fund decent, clean tent camps for those who will otherwise lead insecure lives, in literal danger of injury, disease, and death.
One thing is quite clear. The Republicans are playing politics with not only the lives of the homeless, but also the poor and middle class. If the Republicans were concerned about anyone but themselves, they could easily take that campaign money and earn the good will of the American people by simply distributing it to states, which would vastly assist the roughly 13,400 people per state who do will not have a place to sleep tonight.