Friday, August 13, 2010

Horizontal Organization

Almost every other account of a tent city I have read offers a sympathetic and therefore demoralizing perspective.  However, through my experience, I found many positive qualities that come with living in a tent city.  I plan on adding a series of posts that highlight these benefits.  The first is horizontal organization.

In the traditional homeless shelter system a top-down approach is almost always taken.  People are employed to provide services that the homeless take and receive. The help comes from above and people aren’t left with much to give to their neighbor. There is typically a rigid set of rules that determine who can receive the service, at what time, and for how long.  It is easy for many to fall into the trap of the inflexible routine of these types of services.

Contrary to the traditional system, the tent city model is based on horizontal organization.  This system is based on the idea of homeless people directly helping homeless people.  Through Caleb’s experiences as a tent city organizer, he has found that one of people’s strongest desires is not just to receive but to also be a provider.  He emphasizes, “The ability to have something to give laterally to your friends next to you is something that is very healing for people.” It is something that can be liberating to anyone, not just the homeless.

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