Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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March 25, 2009
By: Hilzoy

Hoovervilles

From the NYT:

"As the operations manager of a outreach center for the homeless here, Paul Stack is used to seeing people down on their luck. What he had never seen before was people living in tents and lean-tos on the railroad lot across from the center.

"They just popped up about 18 months ago," Mr. Stack said. "One day it was empty. The next day, there were people living there."

Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy deja vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. (...)

The surging number of homeless people in Fresno, a city of 500,000 people, has been a surprise. City officials say they have three major encampments near downtown and smaller settlements along two highways. All told, as many 2,000 people are homeless here, according to Gregory Barfield, the city’s homeless prevention and policy manager, who said that drug use, prostitution and violence were all too common in the encampments."

This is Guillermo Flores:

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"Guillermo Flores, 32, said he had looked for work in the fields and in fast food, but had found nothing. For the last eight months, he has collected cans, recycling them for $5 to $10 a day, and lived in a hand-built, three-room shack, a home that he takes pride in, with a door, clean sheets on his bed and a bowl full of fresh apples in his propane-powered kitchen area."

And here's Doug Brown:

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"Doug Brown, a freelance electrical engineer, moved to the shelter at Village of Hope in October after losing his job. He shares his tool shed with another person."

The tool sheds are made available by a local non-profit. They're those little prefab sheds, maybe 8x10 feet. I'm glad Doug Brown can stay in one. But I wish I didn't have to read, about someone who has skills and is willing to work: "He shares his tool shed with another person."

Hilzoy 11:59 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (19)

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>"But I wish I didn't have to read, about someone who has skills and is willing to work: "He shares his tool shed with another person."

Somewhere a billionaire is laughing so hard he wets his pants.

Posted by: Buford on March 26, 2009 at 12:11 AM | PERMALINK

I've seen a couple tents on land adjacent to the interstate around where I live. I suspect they're homeless people. I can't imagine any other reason why anyone would be camping near an interstate.

Posted by: Varecia on March 26, 2009 at 12:15 AM | PERMALINK

I live in Fresno, it is bad. They have closed off a section of the old highway to make a homeless camp. Mayor Buba left just in time.

Posted by: nuttylittlenutnut on March 26, 2009 at 12:18 AM | PERMALINK

This is what falling through the cracks looks like.

These guys in the picture show a lot of character. About the only situations harder than prolonged joblessness and homelessness are acute illness or injury and disaster situations like New Orleans after Katrina.

I hope they can stay healthy and that all of our collective economic efforts directly and indirectly lift their boats.

Universal health coverage won't come a minute too soon.

Posted by: pj in jesusland on March 26, 2009 at 12:32 AM | PERMALINK

Wow, Bush's plans for home ownership for everyone are now realized!

NY Times: White House Philosophy Stoked Mortgage Bonfire
http://www.nytimes.com/2008/12/21/business/21admin.html

Read it and weep.

Posted by: Glen on March 26, 2009 at 1:05 AM | PERMALINK

Wouldn't a more rational society see the phrase "freelance [unemployed] electrical engineer" and think "how fast can we sign this guy up as a high school substitute science teacher?"

Posted by: Andy on March 26, 2009 at 1:12 AM | PERMALINK


They aren't Hoovervilles - they're "Bush Gardens."

Flowering all across America.

Posted by: Kurt Montandon on March 26, 2009 at 1:32 AM | PERMALINK

Andy: "Wouldn't a more rational society see the phrase "freelance [unemployed] electrical engineer" and think "how fast can we sign this guy up as a high school substitute science teacher?"

Good point. Around here a lot of house fires occur because of ancient electrical wiring that people can't afford to replace. Along with weatherizing and making homes more energy efficient, the economic stimulus plan could employ people with this kind of training to help make older homes safe as well as energy efficient.

Posted by: Varecia on March 26, 2009 at 1:34 AM | PERMALINK

the part you apparently ignored, luther, is where it says "management practices."

we're moving toward "a reliance on foreign workers" because of "management practices."

sweet baby jeebus, what is it with these conservatives always wanting the government to solve their "free market" problems!

Posted by: karen marie on March 26, 2009 at 2:18 AM | PERMALINK

how bizarre!

i must be up too late.

luther's comment was there when i started writing mine ...

but *poof* it's gone.

good night all.

Posted by: karen marie on March 26, 2009 at 2:20 AM | PERMALINK

Are the incampments mostly illegals? Or not?

Wondering because of the location.

Posted by: clem on March 26, 2009 at 3:55 AM | PERMALINK

You know, one thing I hope this "recession" will do is bring back people who have repair stores. Like small electric repairs, wood repairs, etc.

Used to be you could find people to do this. Now, forget it. Such shops barely exist.

There is so much thrown out that could be repaired I could see a big demand for that! I'm a packrat as I can't throw out items that need a little work, if I could find someone to do that for a reasonable price.

Bring back repair shops! ;-)

Posted by: Clem on March 26, 2009 at 4:22 AM | PERMALINK

This, as whole subdivisions are emptying out by foreclosure, and the homes left vacant are being stripped of their plumbing and wiring.

Anything wrong with this picture?

Posted by: Nancy Irving on March 26, 2009 at 5:25 AM | PERMALINK

Kurt - 'Bush Gardens'

Great name. I really hope it takes off. It has much more power and relevance. The Hoovervilles name can be parenthetical.

Posted by: Michael7843853 on March 26, 2009 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK

I live in a condo in StPetersburg that has an attractive but rather jungly greenspace. I have assigned myself the task to patrolling for and sending away the homeless who camp there. This is sadly necessary because many of them use our woods for their toilet, start fires (severe local drought), and because kids roam those woods.

The sad stories written on their faces would break a colder heart than mine. We have shifted all our giving to a charity that redirects homeless folks toward self-sufficiency.

Everyone should visit one of these 'Bush Gardens'. Because one of the other articles in today's NYTimes is about a $4Billion shortfall in charitable giving. Powerful motivator, seeing how 'those people' are just like you or me, but unluckier.

Posted by: JohnMcC on March 26, 2009 at 9:59 AM | PERMALINK

They're normally called tent cities, not Hoovervilles, and High Country News (www.hcn.org, subscription required), the single best magazine, period, about life in the western states, has a better article than the NYT.

In response to Clem, a fair amount of ppl in Fresno's tent city are illegal immigrants. Some are afraid to sign a lease, whether they have the money or not.

High Country News also has a sidebar on a individual homeless shelter that's portable, on wheels, in a contraption not too much bigger than a grocery shopping cart.

As for the "whys" of homelessness, per the one person with a "cold heart"?

General and rough rule of thumb is about 1/3 are simply down on their luck through things primarily not their fault, 1/3 are alcoholic/addict and 1/3 are mentally ill. (The second and third groups overlap to a certain degree, for what should be obvious reasons.)

Posted by: SocraticGadfly on March 26, 2009 at 10:10 AM | PERMALINK

"Bush Gardens". Excellent! Spread the word everyone.

Posted by: Leigh on March 26, 2009 at 11:34 AM | PERMALINK
General and rough rule of thumb is about 1/3 are simply down on their luck through things primarily not their fault, 1/3 are alcoholic/addict and 1/3 are mentally ill.

If you made all of these numbers 2/3 instead of 1/3, you'd be a lot closer to being accurate; all of these groups overlap a lot.

Posted by: cmdicely on March 26, 2009 at 11:47 AM | PERMALINK

I see SocraticGadfly and I have the same reading material. Here's a link to the article in High Country News he mentions, which is better than the one in the Times.

Posted by: Anonyman on March 26, 2009 at 4:23 PM | PERMALINK




 

 

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