Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Follow Up on Pinellas Hope

I recently received an e-mail that confirmed my skepticism in a previous post about my visit to Pinellas Hope.  The story highlights the dangers of institutionalizing tent cities, where horizontal organization is replaced with top-down style management.

"The City of St. Petersburg decided that the homeless were to be treated like the plague, in that they urinated in public, bothered people by panhandling, and blocked access to "legitimate" business concerns. The homeless had loosely organized a city of tents under a highway overpass with the blessing of the landowners, the St. Vincent DePaul Society. So rather than address the problem, the city decided to get rid of them by slashing their tents to the ground. This was big news around here, as the action was so brutal. The government excuse was that they were cooking in their tents, which created a fire hazard. So one morning, the Police Dept. came by with box cutters and slashed the tents at the base, leaving only the floor behind, with their possessions exposed. What was not stolen was thrown in the trash by lunchtime by city sanitation workers. Many of the residents were also minimum wage workers, and at their jobs that day...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Vallejo, CA Tent City Urbanism Presentation

An article in the Times-Herald covering the presentation last Thursday on sanctioned tent camps:

Vallejo resident David Cruz said his love for his dog prevents him from resolving his homelessness.

Cruz was among more than two dozen "housed" and "unhoused" residents who gathered Thursday night to hear a presentation on a concept called sanctioned tented camps, or villages.

It's an idea that Councilwoman Marti Brown said she thinks may be a more humane approach to Vallejo's persistent homelessness problem than what's currently being done.

Oregon urban planner Andrew Heben described his research into the phenomenon of tent cities in the United States. He said several cities, mostly along the West Coast, have elected to allow some homeless people to create permanent camps on otherwise underused land.

These often develop into organized communities, that can be made sustainable and provide a measure of dignity to its residents as they seek to stabilize their lives, Heben said.