To tent, or not to tent

There is quite a comment thread going on over at about this article on the tent city situation in Seattle. It’s off-topic already, of course. A lot of Loaves and Fishes bashing.

The tent cities around Seattle run on a system of self-governance, where residents elect leadership councils and vote weekly on matters such as whether to require hand sanitizer in the kitchen tent and who should take charge of cleaning blankets. There is zero tolerance toward drug and alcohol use; profanity and spitting are discouraged. No more than 100 campers are allowed at each site. The encampments are managed by nonprofit organizations, and nearly all financial support comes through fundraising. Residents work security shifts, screening visitors for arrest warrants and patrolling the cramped aisles between tents.

Yowza, no spitting? What is this, Russia? This is some idea though. Kevin Johnson is on board, too.

Sacramento Mayor Kevin Johnson said last week that he is frustrated that a plan has not materialized. He said a tent city could provide a place for the homeless to transition into permanent housing and “integrate back into mainstream society.”

Well, I wouldn’t go that far…From my experience, for every person who is a little down on their luck there are a few more that have made some really poor choices in their lives and continue to do so.

So, what’s the right call here? Apply spot fixes? Rely on the goodness of others to donate money to not-for-profit agencies? Allow the government to get involved and formalize things? I do worry that the easier you make it to live this way, the harder it is to figure out a way to become independent. I see a lot of guys under I-5 and the Garden Highway in the morning laughing and chatting it up over a camp fire. I always think, “Hey, I bet these guys aren’t upside down in their house, throwing money on a hot fire every month.”

Either way, it’s no picnic, I get that. What do you think?

Author: RonTopofIt

RonTopofIt is a complex personality, as are most of the small breed of modern day renaissance millionaires. He wishes more people were like him and yet believes that it takes all kinds. You've met RonTopofIt many times, you just don't remember him.

3 thoughts on “To tent, or not to tent”

  1. I always give money to street musicians, but never to the homeless (unless they are in Roseville or Folsom).

    If only there was a way that all the musicians in this town could teach all the homeless in this town to play, we could solve several problems at once.


  2. Obviously we don’t have one problem but many, perhaps as many different problems as reasons for homelessness. And we can’t solve it overnight. Some need housing, some need mental health services, and some need employment. But the people who are homeless now can’t worry about all that. They need a place to sleep. Tonight, not five years from now. It’s cold and wet out there. Forbidding them a place to set up a tent and sleep is forbidding them to live at all.

    They have to sleep somewhere. I’d rather it be in a group camp (even if it’s on my block) than in my driveway, especially since the group camps seem to be big on enforcing societal responsibility. So I see the tent cities as an undesirable, but necessary, first step in getting people somewhere safe. They shouldn’t cost much, and I think donations should be able to completely cover the cost, if our city government cannot or will not help. (Portapotties and running water do cost money.) It’s a very minimal first step.

    From there, we need to work on all those other problems. In the 34 years I’ve lived in Sacramento, I’ve seen no progress on the government level toward any kind of permanent solution for any of the homeless. All the talk has degenerated into hate, over and over. Perhaps we cannot go further right now, since our government is broke. But we should, and soon. It’s raining.


  3. I find Julie’s remarks eloquent and right. I would add that there are some we might call “n’er do wells” also homeless who wish not for employment or need mental health services, but who also should be allowed to put up their tents somewhere and make do as they will. It’s cold and wet for them, too. They might also be musicians.


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