Tent Cities began as a protest movement and was originally organized as a simple encampment and used as a homeless collective. Specifically regarding Seattle, it was one of the first encampments to be recognized by the government. Policies surrounding Tent City started when an encampment was created illegally and so eventually city representative, Tom Carr and SHARE representative Tedd Hunter signed a consent agreement allowing Tent City only on private land, by invitation only.
Now as a result of that agreement, churches and anyone abiding by the 501(c) requirements host tent city for a maximum of 100 days.
Homelessness is an issue that could potentially influence anyone in the United States. A couple wrong turns on the road of life could lead you to having to sleep on the streets. But would that be allowed in our society? An article in USA Today by Marisol Bello would try to show that legislation is making it more and more difficult to be homeless. Communities are beginning to pass laws that criminalize sleeping in your car, sleeping on a bench, and prohibit any begging. The ideas behind these laws is to encourage people not to make the decision to be homeless.
This report done by the National Coalition for the Homeless further shows this point. It is becoming criminal to be homeless. It seems to be that the people who are passing these laws believe that homelessness is a decision that is being made. They believe that the people who are on the streets choose not to get jobs or are all nursing some form of addiction or another. Another report that was done by the NCH shows that drug or alcohol dependency is not usually what causes people to become homeless, but is a byproduct of their homelessness. These findings show that people started to do drugs once they got onto the streets, not the other way around.
The question can still be raised: is homelessness a decision? Tanene Allison argues that it is not in her article “Confronting the Myth of Choice: Homelessness and Jones v. City of Los Angeles”. This article shows that funding is being cut for people who are homeless because it is believed that the money would be used to further addictions. This leads into a cycle of people not being able to get the money they need from the government, which leads them to remain homeless. But, if sleeping on the street or in your car is now a fineable offense, then not being able to find housing somewhere will force people to have to owe the government money. This furthers the problem of being able to afford a place to live even more.
Even as groups attempt to help people in their transition out of homelessness through groups providing places for Tent Cities. Religious groups are running into red tape, like having to pay fees to have Tent Cities on their property or needing to have the Tent Cities move every three months.
This article shows how churches are being charged large amounts of money to support Tent Cities. Additionally, this article shows the different restrictions that have been put on churches about having Tent Cities on private land.
Homeless people are often marginalized by our government because there isn’t an easy solution to the problem. Much like the issues of racism and homosexuality, it is a very uncomfortable subject to discuss openly. But it is something that is more apparent in our society now than it ever has been. More people are homeless now than ever before. Maybe it’s time that we start talking about it, so that we don’t need places like Tent City 3 anymore and we can find a solution to the issue of individuals being forced to live on the streets that doesn’t involve the antiquated idea of pulling yourself up by your boot straps.
In 1978 the organization New Horizons was created to address homelessness here in Seattle, WA. This organization primarily deals with the homeless youth in and out of the streets. Youth in the homeless world generally are “victimized in their homes or sexually abused”. New Horizons tries its best to get homeless youth out of the streets with small job opportunities, providing clothing, meals and advising.
Youth downtown at Westlake Park are usually approached in less than 45 minutes by pimps or drug dealers and are easily being drawn into that lifestyle. Due to their former home environments, the police, and the veterans on the streets the youth that are homeless generally do not trust adults.
- 1 million youth a year run away, they then are categorized as “street kids” or “street youth”
- Approximately 200-300 youth here in Seattle are sleeping outside.
- 5000 youth hit the homeless system every year
- 60% are male
- Majority of the homeless are people of color or gay/lesbian
- Almost 100% of youth homelessness comes from family disruption
- 20% have mental health issues
Dirty Bridge Kids, the name of the group of youth here in Seattle dealing with being homeless. Along with being homeless there is a street culture and family bond that is created among these individuals. This “family” for many of the youth involved in homelessness is usually their only feeling of belonging that they have felt their whole lives. There is a struggle for these youth to get out of the homeless system because of lack of Government involvement.
Low-income housing is not sufficiently supplied for people that are trying to get on their feet and get off the streets. Ultimately the lack of government assistance leads to a cycle of these individuals falling back into homelessness. Although programs like New Horizon exist and are beneficial, lack of donating and funding is why there isn’t a rapid progress. Donating and volunteering helps in the long run, because it leads to less public tax money that has to be spent
maintaining the homelessness that already exists.
More information on homelessness: Becoming More Informed on Homelessness