13 January 2009

From Hoovervilles to Modern Homelessness

Between Christmas and New Year's I saw a road show of Annie and was reminded of Hoovervilles. Named for President Hoover, the communities were (and remain) a symbol of the Great Depression. Often broken up by authorities, the tent cities would re-form in new locations, populated by both long-term and short-term homeless people.

In that tradition of being named after a politician, today's tent cities are sometimes called Bushvilles or Shruburbs. Less intuitive is Seattle's Nickelsville—it is a tent city built in protest of the mayor's policies about homelessness, and the mayor's name is Nickel. (Nickelsville moves its community around the Seattle area.)

As a baby boomer, I grew up knowing the terms shanty town and tin cup. And I knew that tin cup was for the luckier people because they had real houses. A shanty town then, and now, was constructed of movable parts. It was more like a Hooverville. Today's vocabulary is broader and it reflects a more diverse population of homeless people:

Doubling up
- never reflected in homeless statistics, people double- or triple-up with family or friends, sleeping on couches or crowding a family into a single bedroom.

- people locate a space and "make it their own," sometimes maintaining a homesite for some time.

- people move into abandoned properties, but probably in smaller numbers than the press suggests.

Car camping, RV camping - the "middle class" route to homelessness, as people are able to maintain a car and perhaps a job, too.

Safe parking program
- for the car-camping homeless person, a safe place to spend the night can be a sponsored parking lot. The best publicized program is Santa Barbara's New Beginnings with 12 parking lots "housing" more than 50 vehicles. One lot is reserved for women in their cars. This CNN report tells the story.

© 2009 Mary Bold, PhD, CFLE. The content of this blog or related web sites created by Mary Bold (www.marybold.com, www.boldproductions.com, College Intern Blog) is not under any circumstances to be regarded as professional, legal, financial, or medical advice. Or education advice. Or marital advice. Or even a tip.

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