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‘Bushvilles’ Popping Up All Over The Nation

March 26, 2009

The shantytowns, and tent cities of the poor and homless that are popping up all over the nation are part and parcel of the effects of President Bush’s time in office, and as such are being called ‘Bushvilles’.

Like a dozen or so other cities across the nation, Fresno is dealing with an unhappy déjà vu: the arrival of modern-day Hoovervilles, illegal encampments of homeless people that are reminiscent, on a far smaller scale, of Depression-era shantytowns. At his news conference on Tuesday night, President Obama was asked directly about the tent cities and responded by saying that it was “not acceptable for children and families to be without a roof over their heads in a country as wealthy as ours.”

While encampments and street living have always been a part of the landscape in big cities like Los Angeles and New York, these new tent cities have taken root — or grown from smaller enclaves of the homeless as more people lose jobs and housing — in such disparate places as Nashville, Olympia, Wash., and St. Petersburg, Fla.

In Seattle, homeless residents in the city’s 100-person encampment call it Nickelsville, an unflattering reference to the mayor, Greg Nickels. A tent city in Sacramento prompted Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger to announce a plan Wednesday to shift the entire 125-person encampment to a nearby fairground. That came after a recent visit by “The Oprah Winfrey Show” set off such a news media stampede that some fed-up homeless people complained of overexposure and said they just wanted to be left alone.

The problem in Fresno is different in that it is both chronic and largely outside the national limelight. Homelessness here has long been fed by the ups and downs in seasonal and subsistence jobs in agriculture, but now the recession has cast a wider net and drawn in hundreds of the newly homeless — from hitchhikers to truck drivers to electricians.

“These are able-bodied folks that did day labor, at minimum wage or better, who were previously able to house themselves based on their income,” said Michael Stoops, the executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, an advocacy group based in Washington.

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.

“That’s all part of that underground economy,” Mr. Barfield said. “It’s what happens when a person is trying to survive.”

He said the city planned to begin “triage” on the encampments in the next several weeks, to determine how many people needed services and permanent housing. “We’re treating it like any other disaster area,” Mr. Barfield said.

3 Comments
  1. Greg permalink
    March 31, 2009 10:36 PM

    Historians will tell you that FDR’s spending and the Tennessee Valley Authority brought us out of the Great Depression, and the upward trend only faltered when the Right Wing nutjobs told FDR to stop spending money.

    World War 2 also fixed the economy because of the massive government spending to build tanks and ships and things.

    The way to fix the economy the Republicans have gotten us in to is not to stop spending, it is to increase spending, regardless of what this does to the value of the dollar.

    People paid to build bridges pay taxes on the money the government paid them to build the bridges.

    Giving more tax cuts to gajillionaires does nothing to fix our economy.

  2. March 26, 2009 2:29 PM

    Might you suggest we just pull up the cash flow from Washington and thereby impersonate President Hoover?

  3. Thomas J Canton permalink
    March 26, 2009 2:22 PM

    Maybe they can find jobs at the Federal Reserve, I am sure there are plenty of opportunities there printing Obama’s “Funny Money” to fund the deficit spending and help send the value of the dollar down through the floor.

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