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.


One such camp, "Dignity Village," in Portland, Ore., has some semi-permanent structures, a garden and small money-making enterprises, Heben said. It's this type of situation he advocates.

And it's an arrangement Cruz, homeless for about a year, and others at Thursday's presentation, said could work well for a certain percentage of Vallejo's homeless.

"Maybe we can work together toward this," said Cruz, who said he's unwilling to give up his 12-year-old dog, which severely limits his rental and job search options.

Homeless advocate Doug Darling said the idea of sanctioned camps, where a limited number of homeless people could stay without fear of being rousted by police, might be a good continuation of new attitudes about the problem among city officials.

"The city has made positive changes in the last two years, and this is an example of thinking and acting outside the box," Darling said.

Local businessman Buck Kamphausen said he thinks housing should be created out of some of the city's empty buildings, but thinks the tent city concept is worth considering.

"We have to start somewhere," Kamphausen said.

Deme Stall-Nash, a local activist with Philoptochos, or Friends of the Poor, and Vallejo Together's Maria Guevara agreed it sounds like something to work toward.

"All it needs is someone to permit the use of their land," Guevara said. "I can see it happening. I'm confident it will happen, and we can give some of our homeless some of their dignity back."

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